There’s been a lot of wanging on about this being the best game of the world cup so far. I guess for a sevens style of free-flowing fluctuating game yes. But what this game really nailed once and for all is how naive Wales has become, trying to out-fiji the Fijians, but not having the goods to back it up.
To give both teams their due, they kept going for 80 minutes and even when 25-3 down, the Welsh kept coming. Like the Tongans, Fiji also showed what a steady hand at 10 and powerful backrow can add in terms of structure and game control; both benefits of the modern professional era where week in week out these guys now play in british and french leagues.
Wales on the other hand, as they have done since the new coaching regime took over, decided they would try and go back to a ramanticised version of the great 70’s sides. It’s as if someone has stuck all their top tries from that period on a DVD and said ‘there’s the playbook’. The problem is they don’t have the players in the backs, and this nostalgia ignores the role that the Welsh pack played in this era. Apparently it’s not just me who thinks this as the WRFU have just sacked Gareth Jenkins the coach. Look out Scott Johnson, expect a call.
So, at several times in this match when the Welsh pack just needed to stuff the ball up their jumper and grind the Fijian legs down, they couldn’t or wouldn’t do it, instead deciding to fling the ball around, er, Fijian style. For fiji, there were plenty of heroes across the paddock, but two stood out to me; Nicky Little at 10 with his distribution and place kicking, and the winger Vilimoni Delasau, who almost single handedly turned the game around.
See stats here
Tries: Popham, Shane Williams, Gareth Thomas, Mark Jones, Martyn Williams
Cons: Hook 2, Stephen Jones
Pen: Stephen Jones
Tries: Qera, Delasau, Leawere, Dewes
Cons: Little 3
Pens: Little 4
Yellow card: Qera (40, Fiji, raised knee in the tackle)
Wales: 15 Gareth Thomas, 14 Mark Jones, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 James Hook, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Alix Popham, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Colin Charvis, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Chris Horsman, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Ian Gough, 19 Michael Owen, 20 Michael Phillips, 21 Jamie Robinson, 22 Dafydd James.
Fiji: 15 Kameli Ratuvou, 14 Vilimoni Delasau, 13 Seru Rabeni, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Isoa Neivua, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Mosese Rauluni(c), 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Semisi Naevo, 5 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 4 Kele Leawere, 3 Jone Railomo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Graham Dewes.
Replacements: 16 Vereniki Sauturaga, 17 Henry Qiodravu, 18 Wame Lewaravu, 19 Aca Ratuva, 20 Jone Daunivucu, 21 Norman Ligairi, 22 Sireli Bobo.
Referee: Chris White
Touch judges: Steve Walsh, Bryce Lawrence
Television match official: Lyndon Bray
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie