Rugby World Cup 2019
Georgia 10-45 Fiji
Fijian style overcame Georgian power to keep their hopes of automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023 alive with a seven-try win over the Lelos in Hanazono.
Heavy rain and the importance of this match with regards to qualification for RWC 2023 made for a scrappy opening quarter, the main talking point of which was a difference of opinion from the assistant referees as to whether Soso Matiashvili’s penalty had been successful. One flag went up, the other stayed down and replays revealed that the ball had indeed drifted wide.
The deadlock was finally broken on 19 minutes, Volavola sending a left-footed grubber towards the sideline, where Semi Radradra beat Giorgi Kveseladze to the pickup and slipped a pass to Waisera Nayacalevu who dashed in unopposed for Volovola to convert.
Nayacalevu should have doubled the Fijian lead on 28 minutes, sharing three passes with Levani Botia, to beat the mesmerised Georgians, but Botia’s final pass was knocked on by his centre partner.
Georgia showed both sides of their game in their response, a dazzling break from captain Sharijadze, aided by swift offloads from his backs, taking them from their own five-metre line to the Fijian tryline.
A series of more characteristic Lelos forward charges ended with second-row Nemsadze knocking the ball on as he grounded. But Fiji had been caught offside and Murunurivalu kicked their first points of the match and Georgia’s first penalty of RWC 2019 to make it 7-3 at the break.
Sharikadze left the field two minutes into the second-half with a head injury, and three minutes later Fiji extended their lead. A miss-pass from Volavola fed Murimurivalu, who slipped a back-handed offload to Radradra. The winger tore down the touchline and passed inside to scrum-half Frank Lomani, who held off two tackles to extend the lead to 12-3.
Radradra set up a third try of the afternoon, coming off his left wing for an arcing run across the Georgian defence, drawing the cover before slipping a pass to scorer Josua Tuisova.
Georgia reverted to type from the restart, Giorgi Kveseladze catching the Fijians napping to follow the flight of the high ball and catch. The Lelos charged forwards and Mamuka Gorgodze burrowed over, Matiashvili converting to close the gap to seven.
Radradra finally claimed a try of his own on the hour, Tuisova returning the earlier favour to free the winger on the left. He had to put his foot on the gas but outran the Georgian cover to score Fiji’s bonus-point try.
Fiji’s forwards got on the scoresheet in the final quarter, flanker Semi Kunatani holding on to a short-range pass from Botia to dive over the line before second-row Api Ratuniyarawa trotted in past a tired-looking Georgian defence, who were playing their second match in four days.
Player of the Match Radradra scored a second from 45 metres in the final five minutes, twisting out of a tackle by Beka Gorgadze to ground in the corner for Fiji’s seventh and final try.
Fiji have to see how Pool D’s remaining games pan out before learning whether they can claim that third place and a ticket to France. They may yet regret that first-match defeat by Uruguay but this romp against the fancied Georgians has certainly put their World Cup back on track.