Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Fiji ends 69-year drought, keeps campaign alive

The Flying Fijians ended a 69-year-old drought against Australia and kept their Rugby World Cup hopes alive with a 22-15 win at Saint Etienne in France today.

In a do-or-die encounter, Fiji dominated early to keep their quarterfinal chances.

Australia managed first points through fullback Ben Donaldson when Fiji was penalised early for successive high tackles that slipped up with the excitement of the moment.

Donaldson converted in the third minute for the first points of the match.

Fiji began to utilise some possession and slowly crept into the opposition half.

After winning a penalty, scrum half Simione Kuruvoli converted the chance into points from 40 metres out with 11 minutes gone, leveling up the contest.

Fiji pressed again just before the water break and again caught the Aussies offside.

A second successful penalty from 45 metres out in the 20th minute saw Fiji take the lead for the first time in the game.

Australia caught a quick break with a 50-22 finder from halfback Nic White, and a quick line-out to Samu Kerevi had openside winger Mark Nawaqanitawase in support to score the first try of the game in the 24th minute with Donaldson missing the conversion.

Kuruvoli was on the receiving end of a high shot from his opposite number White after some unbroken play.

He added his third penalty of the first half to push Fiji back in front by one point with less than 13 minutes to go until the half-time.

The Fijians took all available opportunities for points and another penalty from a similar distance saw Kuruvoli strike with precision to increase their buffer to four points with the break now looming.

Fiji missed an opportunity with three given line-outs in prime position, however lost with two stolen and the third accidentally knocked on by openside flanker Levani Botia.

The Simon Raiwalui coached side pressed once more, but the Australians defended to the death sending the teams to the break with Fiji in front by 12-8.

Fiji started the second spell in superb fashion when Wallabies pivot Carter Gordon failed to regain the high ball finding a roving Josua Tuisova who raced away to the corner to score in the 43rd minute.

Kuruvoli who was dangerous all day with his kicking, made no mistake with the conversion from the touchline.

Fiji had another chance to extend the lead but reserve halfback Frank Lomani could not convert with the South Sea Islanders missing their first kick of the match.

Lomani replaced Kuruvoli as the youngster struggled with calf strains probably to fatigue from a busy first half.

Reserve halfback Issek Fines-Leleiwasa came on to substitute Nic White and with Suliasi Vunivalu on earlier, all Fijians on the Wallabies roster were now on the pitch.

Lomani made no mistake with his second penalty in the 66th minute, slotting the ball from 40 metres right in front with 14 minutes left in the game.

A five metre lineout two minutes later put the Aussies back in the hunt with Vunivalu finishing off a maul to score their second try and Donaldson added the conversion to close the gap to seven points.

The pressure was on as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes.

The Australians seemed to pick up the pace and looked eager to steal the win.

They had a last ditch scrum with 20 seconds on the clock but the powerful Fijian forward pack pushed through to retain the penalty and clung on to record the famous victory.

The Flying Fijians last beat Australia in 1954 during their tour where they prevailed 18-16.

The teams:

Australia (15-1)-  Ben Donaldson; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Carter Gordon, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Tom Hooper; Richie Arnold, Nick Frost; James Slipper, David Porecki (c), Angus Bel.

l Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Blake Schoupp, Zane Nonggorr, Matt Philip, Rob Leota, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Lalakai Foketi, Suli Vunivalu.

Flying Fijians (15-1)- Ilaisa Droasese, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Teti Tela, Simione Kuruvoli, Viliame Mata, Levani Botia, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Isoa Nasilasila, Luke Tagi, Sam Matavesi, Eroni Mawi .

Replacements: Tevita Ikanivere, Peni Ravai, Mesaki Doge, Temo Mayanavanua, Albert Tuisue, Frank Lomani, Vilimoni Botitu, Vinaya Habosi.

Noa Biudole
Noa Biudole
Journalist | news@fijilive.com


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