Fiji withstood a late France onslaught to clinch a thrilling 21-14 win in Paris on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Fiji were in the ascendancy throughout the first half and unlucky to trail by two at the break after conceding a converted try in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
The visitors then put in a defensive masterclass in the second stanza, while Ben Volavola kicked three penalties to ensure his side claimed a maiden victory against France.
The first half was a scrappy affair, but that didn’t reduce the ferocity or the high tempo at which the game was played.
Fiji made a good start to the contest and were rewarded with a try by Semi Radrada. France tried to slow things down and for a moment they succeeded in doing so. This allowed Guilhem Guirado to crash over for his side’s first try from the back of a maul.
Fiji continued to come at the France defence. Lock Leone Nakarawa pierced the line and fed wing Josua Tuisova as the visitors regained the lead.
They thought they had extended that advantage with another try, but Nakarawa’s effort was disallowed because Radrada was adjudged to be in an offside position when he made the initial turnover.
Instead, France would go on to score at the other end. The hosts kept the ball alive five minutes into stoppage time before Guirado powered over for his second. Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin made no mistake with the conversion as France took a 14-12 lead into the interval.
The second half was as intense as it was frantic. Fiji had a second try ruled out due to a late tackle in the buildup, but luckily for them, it had no impact on the outcome of the contest.
Volavola slotted two penalties to put Fiji 18-14 up, but after that it was wave after wave of attack from France. The hosts, though, wasted all the opportunities inside the opposition 22 as Fiji’s excellent defence refused to concede any further tries.
In the dying stages, Fiji won possession back and worked their way downfield, where Volavola lined up his third penalty attempt. The flyhalf split the uprights to seal a famous win for the Pacific Islanders.
France – Tries: Guilhem Guirado (2). Conversions: Baptiste Serin (2).
Fiji – Tries: Semi Radradra, Josua Tuisova. Conversion: Ben Volavola. Penalties: Volavola (3).
France – 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Kélian Galletier, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Geoffrey Doumayrou.
Fiji – 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Campese Maafu.
Subs: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Alivereti Veitokani, 23 Eroni Sau.
Photo: Franck Fife/Getty Images