Wales survive Fiji scare to book quarter-final place

Rugby World Cup 2019

Pool D

Wales 29-17 Fiji 

Wales were left battered and bruised but qualified for the quarter-finals after twice coming from behind against Fiji for a victory that left some question marks over their World Cup credentials.

Winger Josh Adams scored a hat-trick of tries in a rollercoaster Pool D game at Oita Stadium that also featured four yellow cards and four disallowed tries – three of them to Fiji, whose tournament is over.

Wales had to equal their best RWC comeback after trailing by 10 points early on – just as they did in beating England in 2015 – and also fell behind in the second half. But two late tries in a pulsating contest sealed the win with a bonus point.

Victory over Uruguay on Sunday – by a much-changed team with Welsh resources in the backs severely strained – will seal top spot in the pool, setting up a quarter-final against France or England back in Oita.

“There are some sore bodies as it was a really tough game,” said coach Warren Gatland, who added that fly-half Dan Biggar faces return-to-play protocols before the knockout stages after being poleaxed by team-mate Liam Williams.

“We may have to look at Hallam Amos, Liam or Hadleigh Parkes as a back-up at outside-half (against Uruguay).

“We knew Fiji would be tough and they have got some absolute world-class athletes. But to go from 10-0 down to win with a bonus point shows some great character.”

Wales have conceded eight tries in their three games, which will be a concern, but chiselling out victories against Australia and now Fiji after being forced to dig deep into their reserves of spirit and determination will give them confidence.

Fiji’s wing Josua Tuisova manages to get the ball down for the first try.

The Fijians bow out of the World Cup having given up a 10-point lead against Wales and a nine-point advantage over Australia in their opening game. How they must rue that surprise defeat by Uruguay.

Winger Semi Radradra was outstanding as Fiji threatened to repeat that famous win over Wales in Nantes at RWC 2007, making a stunning start with two tries inside eight minutes in a game they had to win.

Josua Tuisova lived up to his nickname of ‘The Bus’ as three Welsh defenders were unable to stop him touching down in the corner after Wales conceded an early penalty.

Full-back Kini Murimurivalu added the second with Wales hooker Ken Owens sin-binned for a tip-tackle on number eight Viliame Mata.

Wales, who had had a 10-day break, looked shocked and sluggish but finally responded after lock Tevita Cavubati was yellow-carded, with Biggar’s pin-point crossfield kick setting up Adams for his first try on 17 minutes.

Adams had another try ruled out soon after but with flanker Semi Kunatani in the sin-bin, the Cardiff Blues flier found some space for his second on the half-hour mark.

Biggar’s two conversions from the touchline proved the difference between the teams at the break, but Fiji responded again in the second-half with Radradra – Player of the Match despite being on the losing side – continuing to wreak havoc.

After flanker James Davies marred his RWC debut with a yellow card, Fiji were awarded a penalty try to regain the lead.

Liam Williams dives over the line to score a crucial try for Wales.

Biggar was forced off after being hit by Williams as they both went for a high ball and though he did not need a head injury assessment (HIA) – he failed one against Australia in the last game – he will again need to be assessed by the specialists.

His replacement, Rhys Patchell, levelled the scores with a long-range penalty before Wales finally subdued Fiji with two fine tries.

Centre Jonathan Davies’s searing break and clever flicked offload behind him set up Adams for his hat-trick.

Both would not see the game out. Davies faces a fitness test on his knee while Gatland said Adams had only a dead leg.

Then scrum-half Gareth Davies’s fine pick-up sent full-back Williams scampering over on 70 minutes for the bonus point try for a relieved Wales.

“It was a gallant performance by our players and they really took it to a good Welsh team. We have had an opportunity on the world stage to show what we are capable of,” said Fiji’s head coach John McKee.

“We lost three tries to forward passes. It was a game of inches and they cost you when a game is so close. But we can go away with our heads held high.”

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