SPORTS

Hold Your Heads High Fiji!

Despite the 17-29 loss, the John McKee-coached side took their opponents to the wire and finished the game with more possession, territory, metres made, defenders beaten and a better tackle completion rate.
11 Oct 2019 13:54
Hold Your Heads High Fiji!
Josua Tuisova bursts through a Wales defence line during their Pool D Rugby World Cup match at the Oita Stadium in Japan, on October 9, 2019. Tuisova scored a try against the Welsh but Fiji fell short with a 17-29 loss. Photo: Bruce Southwick/ZoomFiji

The Fiji Airways Flying Fijians can exit the 2019 Rugby World Cup with their heads held high after a gallant display against Wales on Wednesday.

Despite the 17-29 loss, the John McKee-coached side took their opponents to the wire and finished the game with more possession, territory, metres made, defenders beaten and a better tackle completion rate.

The Fijians also won 96 per cent of their rucks, 14 out of 15 lineouts, all eight of their scrums and completed more passes than the Welsh.

Before the match, McKee warned that his players would “show the world what they were capable of” and the team did not disappoint.

The coach would come to rue the team’s missed chances, with Fiji denied three tries because of a forward pass while picking up two needless yellow cards. But Fiji’s dynamism with ball-in-hand allowed them to put pressure on their opponents, with Wales coach Warren Gatland looking visibly concerned at one point.

It helped that Fiji played like a team with nothing to lose, with solid displays across the park despite an evening of shaky scrummaging.

Frank Lomani was brilliant at halfback, delivering quick balls to ensure Fiji maintained their intensity in attack while also putting in a good shift in defence.

Josua Tuisova played like a one-man wrecking crew and competed well with counterpart, and Wales hat-trick hero, Josh Adams.

Semi Radradra continued from where he left off against Georgia in his second consecutive man-of-the-match performance, earning high praise from players and commentators the world over.

Ben Volavola missed a few conversions but did reasonably well as Fiji’s creator-in-chief and his tactical kicking.

Viliame Mata was the standout performer in a hard-working forward pack that was tested by the Welsh throughout.

It was also good to see 23-year-old Suva prop Eroni Mawi play the whole second-half – and with some distinction too.

If not for the yellow cards and uncharacteristic defensive errors, Fiji could have come away with victory at Oita Stadium, but ultimately fell to a dogged Wales side.

Centre Levani Botia’s first-half injury did disrupt Fiji’s momentum a little bit, although Wales deserve credit for containing the Fijian threat. But this game was more about the performance than the result. Fiji’s chances of reaching the quarterfinals were shattered after the 27-30 upset loss to Uruguay.

The Wales game was about regaining some lost pride and securing automatic qualification to the 2023 France Rugby World Cup by finishing third in the group. In the end, Wales probably deserved the win on the balance of play.

But Fiji certainly did not deserve to lose.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedbacksheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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