On June 26, 1954, the Fiji rugby team beat Australia by a tight 16-18 in Sydney. It was the fourth time that the two oceanic countries faced each other, and the balance was two wins for each one. Since then, the balance has become completely unbalanced: 17 wins for the Wallabies, the last 15 in a row, and a tie (in 1961). Along the way, beatings like 49-0, 66-20, 49-3… Until today. The Flying Fijians broke the losing streak against the Wallabies in a big way, with one of the most important wins in their history: 15-22 on the second day of the World Cup in France to blow up group C.
The always fun team from Fiji has been sending out warnings lately. They beat England a month ago in preparation for the World Cup, and in their debut in this edition they had the victory against Wales in their hands, who escaped alive on the last play. That defeat seemed to bury their chances of advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, but this Sunday they revived them in the best possible way, with a victory that will be celebrated in style on islands that have less than a million inhabitants. The team coached by Simon Raiwalui was agile in attack, a rock in defense and took great advantage of the mistakes, childish at times, of an Australia that complicated its future in the tournament.
In the initial section, The Flying Fijians survived thanks to the foot of an immaculate Simione Kuruvoli, who recorded a perfect 4/4 in penalty shots in the first half. Fiji harshly punished Australia’s lack of discipline, both in defense and attack, and a good handful of Wallabies offenses were dismantled by retention and other sanctions. Mark Nawaqanitawase’s try was the only joy for the two-time world champions in the first 40 minutes (they were down 8-12 at halftime). As soon as I returned from the locker room, Fiji struck with a try from Josua Tuisova, who took advantage of an Australian blunder in a up and under, and with the conversion of a Kuruvoli who left the score at 5/5 before leaving the game due to injury.
The Wallabies continued disoriented, without a fixed direction with which to attack and abusing kicks. Eddie Jones was not able to find the cracks in his rival. The income for Fiji could have been higher, but the inaccuracies at hand, its great blemish, were the only ones that prevented it. The suffering of those from the islands to protect their advantage was not as agonizing as could be expected, and Australia was responsible for shooting itself in the foot again and again. Suli Vunivalu’s rehearsal with just over 10 minutes remaining gave a bit of spice to the topic, but Fiji continued to be a wall and managed to secure a historic victory. The consolation for Australia was taking the two defensive bonus points, and by a miracle, since Frank Lomani missed a penalty shot with time elapsed.
With this unexpected, but more than deserved, result, group C of the World Cup was turned upside down. Wales leads with 10 points and two victories, followed by Fiji with 6 (against Leek they achieved the defensive bonus), the same as Australia. If the Flying Fijians meet the predictions and beat Georgia and Portugal, they would put a foot and a half in the quarterfinals. The duel between Wales and Australia next Sunday takes on maximum importance: The Wallabies need to beat the leaders, and also get the offensive bonus to surpass them in the table. The surprise of Fiji now opens a wide range of possibilities in the group, even more so taking into account the bonuses. But no one can take this historic triumph away from Fijians who dream big.
South Africa and England maintain full
The second week of competition in France also closed with two other matches. At lunch time, South Africa did not give any type of option to a Romania that took its second consecutive beating. If the Romanians, who occupy Spain’s place in the World Cup, received an 82-8 from Ireland a week ago, this time The current champions handed them another resounding 76-0. This is, in fact, the second best score in the World Cup history of the Springboks, who through 12 tries made it two out of two on their way to the fourth Webb Ellis Cup. With only three points allowed in two games, South Africa is already thinking about next Saturday’s big duel, in which they will face Ireland with first place in group B at stake.
England also scored two out of two, which did not arrive at this World Cup in its best moment but is moving perfectly in a somewhat muddier and rougher game. This is how the XV de la Rosa managed to beat the dangerous Japan this Sunday, 34-12. Steve Borthwick’s men read the match perfectly and knew how to limit the explosiveness of the Japanese, very tight during the game. In the exchange of penalty blows, Josh Ford’s foot shone again, and Japan was unable to deliver the surprise it had threatened with. While England left first place in group D almost guaranteed, the Asians aim to play for the other ticket to the quarterfinals against Samoa.