Wales 29-17 Fiji

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Wales overcame Fiji in a scrappy game in Oita to secure their passage to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and stay at the top of Pool D.

Warren Gatland had made two changes to the team which beat Australia nine days ago, with James Davies and Ross Moriarty coming into the back row, as Josh Navidi switched to the blindside, Aaron Wainwright dropped to the bench and Justin Tipuric was rested.

That long break seemed to be having an impact on Wales early in the game though, as a slow start was punished by Fiji in the opening 15 minutes.

The offloading game of the Pacific Islanders paid off as Leone Nakarawa released Bill Mata through the middle and although that attack was stopped, the subsequent scrum allowed Josua Tuisova to go down the blindside and finish brilliantly after breaking tackles by Josh Adams and Dan Biggar.

TMO Ben Skeen was the centre of attention over the next few passages of play, first ruling that a knock on should prevent Wales an immediate response through a George North try, before Ken Owens was sin binned for a tip tackle.

Attacking against 14 men the Fijians smelled blood and did well to work numbers over on the right wing again with full-back Kini Murimurivalu crossing for the game’s second try.

Josua Tuisova Fiji
Josua Tuisova gets the ball down

Unfortunately Ben Volavola could not convert either try, and when the TMO saw Tevita Cavubati sent to the sin bin for an illegal clearout at the ruck, the momentum in the game started to turn and the missed conversions came back to bite.

Wales worked down field and some quick carrying phases in the opposition 22 saw the defence narrow enough for Dan Biggar to pull off an inch perfect cross field kick which Josh Adams took well to score in the corner.

Biggar converted brilliantly from out wide and was soon back on the tee when the men in red returned to the 22 and piled pressure on to Fiji.

Persistent penalties saw Semi Kunatani sent to the sin bin, and after having one potential score ruled out for having a little toe in touch, Adams was finally over for a second a few minutes later after some strong carrying and good handling allowed him to score a try in the corner.

Biggar converted again for a 14-10 lead that held until half-time, a good position to be in after a slow start that perhaps pointed to the fact that Wales had had nine days off prior to the game.

Unfortunately being rusty was not to blame for the beginning of the second half, which saw Warren Gatland’s men fall into the trap of trying to outplay Fiji at their own game, using width and ball speed in attack.

Too many turnovers and some poor kicking allowed the Fijians to get a strong foothold in the game, and when James Davies was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball, they struck through a strong driving maul that eventually saw Jerome Garces go under the posts for a penalty try.

Hadleigh Parkes Fiji
Hadleigh Parkes carries through midfield

Even that didn’t spark Wales into life, and instead it was an unfortunate event that saw Dan Biggar go off with a head injury after colliding with his own team-mate Liam Williams in the air.

The introduction of Rhys Patchell seemed to give the men in red some added impetus, nailing a penalty from distance to draw the scores level, before some magic from Jon Davies and Josh Adams re-took the lead.

A classic fend and acceleration from the outside centre took him into Fiji’s 22 before he produced an offload for the winger to somehow stay in field and grab his hat-trick, with Patchell unlucky to hit the post on the conversion.

The opposition tried to hit back, but two solid defensive sets from Wales averted the danger, before a tired kick chase from Fiji allowed Gareth Davies to break through the middle of the field and find Liam Williams on his shoulder to go under the posts for a bonus point try.

Patchell converted to secure a 29-17 scoreline, and a professional win for Wales, that at times was scrappy, but got the job done against a tough, physical and unorthodox opponent in Fiji.

Gatland will be concerned about another head injury to Dan Biggar, as well as knocks picked up by Jon Davies and Josh Adams, but the overriding headline is that Wales are in the quarter-finals. Now a win over Uruguay to top the pool.

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