In a dramatic clash that unfolded against the backdrop of the Rugby World Cup, a hard-fought victory fell into the hands of the Welsh squad as they withstood an impressive late stand by Fiji in the enthralling opener in Bordeaux.
At the helm of the game, Wales commanded a promising lead of 32-14, primarily due to skillful tries from Josh Adams, George North, Louis-Rees-Zammit, and Elliot Dee. However, the Fijian resolve soon shone through efforts from Waisea Nayacalevu and Lekima Tagitagivalu, followed by Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge who scored late tries unsettling the Welsh side.
As the final play unfolded, Semi Radradra, Fiji’s centre, added to the high-stakes drama by dropping the ball when mere moments away from the Welsh try line, thus rendering a potential victory touch moot.
Dominating the pitch with a spectacular play of eight tries, the game brought forth echoes of Fiji’s triumphant 38-34 win over Wales in 2007 in Nantes. Notwithstanding history, this occasion saw the men in red savoring the end-of-match celebrations. This came along with Dan Biggar, the fly-half, earning the man of the match accolade for his stellar performance in earning his side 12 points.
Notably, Wales executed an impressive 248 tackles in comparison to Fiji’s 70. The triumphant conclusion boosted Wales’ prospects in their quest to secure a quarter-final berth, a development that closely followed Australia’s triumph over Georgia in the Pool C opener, held the previous Saturday.
The fixture added another chapter to an ongoing World Cup rivalry, marking the fifth consecutive time the two teams clashed on the World Cup stage. Gatland’s team maintained their previous winning streak from 2011, 2015, and 2019.
Commencing his fourth World Cup tenure, Gatland guided Wales, having already led Ireland in the 1999 tournament. A stark contrast, however, was the team’s series of setbacks, losing 26 games since 2019, marking the highest number of defeats between World Cup events, and culminating in Gatland’s return replacing Wayne Pivac in late 2022.
Fiji entered the tournament as the top-ranked side in Pool C, placing three positions above Wales after their impactful victory over England in Twickenham. A rapid shift in squad due to Caleb Muntz’s injury allocated Teti Tela to the fly-half position.
After slow initial play, Wales roared back to life with solid contributions from locks Adam Beard and Will Rowlands whose outstanding start set the tempo for the game. While Wales surged forward, Fiji found strength in their captain, Nayacalevu, whose galvanizing play infused a new resolve into the team.
However, Fiji’s momentum again shifted, and although prop Eroni Mawi almost scored a try, Wales managed to rally back, leading to an 18-14 edge at half-time. In the second half, Wales exerted consistent pressure, turning the tide in favor of the red-clad warriors.
Despite bouts of professional fouls and displays of persistent offending, Wales held firm, denying Fiji the ultimate victory touch. In the end, amid the cheers and sighs of relief, the Welsh were as jubilant in their victory as they were grateful against an all-out Fijian onslaught. An ecstatic Wales stands second in Pool C, basking in a bonus-point triumph over Fiji.