Wales saw off a spirited effort from Fiji to clinch an important, albeit unconvincing, 23-13 win in Cardiff on Thursday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The big question was always going to be whether Wales could lift themselves for another big game after such a short turnaround from last Saturday’s epic win over England.
And, in many ways they played into Fiji’s hands by making it fast and loose for large parts of the clash, with the dangerous islanders launching a host of threatening counter-attacks.
For most of the second half Fiji were very much in the match, and the big crowd at the Millennium Stadium would have been forgiven for wondering about the possibility of a massive upset.
Wales had only ever lost to Fiji on one previous occasion, but it was that defeat in the pool stage of the 2007 World Cup that prevented the Welsh from progressing to the knockout stage.
And while Fiji did briefly threaten a repeat of sorts, Wales were ultimately deserving victors. The win also enabled Wales to move clear at the top of Pool A, and while they have obviously played an extra game, the four log points will serve as another significant step towards qualifying for the play-offs.
During a frenetic start to the clash, Wales camped in Fiji’s 22 before elusive scrumhalf Gareth Davies finally darted over to score in the seventh minute.
With both sides wanting to keep the ball in hand, the first half was full of running, but the finishing – particularly on the part of Fiji – left a lot to be desired at times.
Nevertheless, Wales managed to finish off a beautiful movement in the 32nd minute when hooker Scott Baldwin dived over to score Wales’ second try.
Importantly, Fiji did earn two scrum penalties, with the influence of coaching consultant Frans Ludeke shining through, and the islanders were able to reduce the half-time deficit to 11 points as Wales went into the break at 17-6.
Yet, Fiji came roaring into contention soon after the restart when centre Vereniki Goneva finished off a lethal counter-attack, and suddenly there were just four points in it.
Dan Biggar opened up a seven-point advantage with a second penalty soon after, though, and then finally put Wales more than one score ahead when he slotted another three-pointer in the 69th minute.
Davies was held up just short of the line late in the game, but Wales had done enough to clinch an invaluable victory.
While the hosts will be mightily pleased with the result, they’ll be just as happy that it seems they came through the match without any serious injuries.
Wales – Tries: Gareth Davies, Scott Baldwin. Conversions: Dan Biggar (2). Penalties: Biggar (3).
Fiji – Try: Vereniki Goneva. Conversion: Ben Volavola. Penalties: Volavola (2).
Wales – 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 James Hook.
Fiji – 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Lepani Botia, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Maafu.
Subs: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravia, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Joshua Matavesi, 23 Kini Murimurivalu.