Wales 29, Fiji 17.
It takes a long time to banish some nightmares. That dark day, 29th September, 2007 when Fiji whooped Wales, still casts its long shadow but today Wales exhibited individual brilliance whilst digging deep collectively as a team against muscular and fierce Fiji onslaughts in the Oita stadium
James Davies, joining his brother Jonathan and Ross Moriarty were the only changes in the Welsh team that beat Australia, showing respect for the Fijian side and the threat of its fast, free flow rugby.
Fiji were off to a flying start with an early try for winger Josua Tuisova hitting the line even as he evaded strong covering tackles by a trio of Navidi, Adams and Biggar.
A yellow card against Ken Owens for a dangerous tackle was a further early blow as Fiji further revved its engines, resulting in a second try, this time for full back Kini Murimurivalu. Wales was seemingly in the South Seas’ shredder, their defence in ribbons.
It was time for composure. An inch perfect kick across the park from Biggar put Josh Adams in near the corner, with Biggar converting impeccably.
A run of penalties with Wales plumping for the scrum option, showed supreme confidence in the pack and Josh Adams might have scored again were his foot not marginally in touch as he went over.
Surging Welsh forward power play pressurised Fiji into giving away four penalties and a yellow card as a result. The Welsh scrum machine was by now a Panzer tank division, pushing ever on, again releasing Adams for his second five points, with Biggar slotting it through the posts with his usual, almost casual precision. As the writer João Morais tweeted about Adams at half time ‘Haven’t seen a redemption like this on my TV since Han Solo’s last minute change of heart to help Luke take down the Death Star.’
In the closing minute of the half Adams’ boot was unfortunately magnetised by the white of the touch line again. The Welsh four point cushion at half time was also a knife edge and the game could go either way.
Early Welsh nerves in the second half were settled by Liam Williams soaringly claiming aerial ball and showing a clear urge to run rather than return a kick.
A Fiji forward pass was a let off for Wales as the South Pacific islanders were by now cruising up through the gears. Josh Navidi, having a strong second half was playing the jackal and intercepting ball, but a penalty try for Fiji rewarded a passage of play where their big backs were simply shrugging off red tackles.
Miscommunication between Liam Williams and Biggar put them both in a mid-air collision, Biggar leaving the field after a shoulder went into his jaw. Rhys Patchell came on to replace him, as he did against Australia, and pretty much immediately was kicking for a loping penalty and making the the scoreline even at 17-17.
A strong individual run by Jonathan Davies, fending off defenders and deftly offloading resulted in an Adams try. Patchell’s conversion was deflected off the post, but Wales were now 22-17 up.
Muscling play by Moriarty led to a by now typical bursting break by Gareth Davies and a Liam Williams try, converted by Patchell. Wales 29, Fiji 17.
Wales now started to play with more adventure, bringing in George North and offloading by instinct. Fiji responded with character and bursts of open running. It wasn’t end to end rugby but tired bodies showed the gruelling nature of the contest.
This was a full on test of Welsh mettle, marred only by the injuries to key players Jonathan Davies and Dan Biggar. Wales emerged victorious and bruised, ending Fiji’s World Cup hopes and heading inevitably for the quarter finals.