Wales v Fiji: Five takeaways from the game of the opening Rugby World Cup weekend

Semi Radradra and George North after Wales v Fiji clash. Credit: Alamy
Semi Radradra and George North after Wales v Fiji clash. Credit: Alamy

Following the 32-26 victory for Wales over Fiji in their Rugby World Cup game in Bordeaux on Sunday, here are our five takeaways from a thrilling encounter.

Game of the opening weekend

What a thoroughly entertaining 80 minutes it was in Bordeaux as both nations put on a show to bring down the curtain on the first weekend of the Rugby World Cup.

Eight tries were scored in total in a high-octane clash that was breathless at times, with Fiji coming agonisingly close to securing what would have been a famous win. Wales were out on their feet in the closing stages and the Fijians had chance after chance but eventually the sands of time ran out with Wales hanging on.

Without doubt it was the game of the weekend as from the off both sides put on a show, with the match certainly lighting the touchpaper on Rugby World Cup 2023.

Missed opportunity for Fiji

This was a huge opportunity for Fiji to pick up another special victory over Wales and, in truth, the islanders left plenty of points on the field at Stade de Bordeaux.

From Levani Botia’s knock-on over the whitewash to Peni Ravai being adjudged to have propelled himself forward by referee Matt Carley, the sustained spell in Welsh territory should have resulted in more points on the board that would have seen them come out on top. It truly was a missed chance for a memorable result.

The challenge now for Simon Raiwalui’s men is to not let this happen again in the pool stages, with the Wallabies next on Saturday in what is a must-win fixture.

Dan Biggar leads Wales home

The Wales fly-half departed the action on 68 minutes after kicking 12 points but contributing so much more in terms of solid option taking, leadership and let’s call it motivating his teammates. George North copped an earful from Biggar on two occasions for not clearing his lines, with Biggar seething at the half-time break.

Injury saw him replaced in the later stages and it is arguably a sign of how important he is to this Welsh line-up that the wheels seemingly came off thereafter.

Warren Gatland will hope the knock is nothing too serious but he might be tempted to wrap him in cotton wool against Portugal, as tougher fixtures then follow.

We don’t need that, Gareth

“This isn’t soccer”, as Nigel Owens once famously said and in the first half between Wales and Fiji it was disappointing to see Gareth Davies seemingly overplay the seatbelt tackle he received from Selestino Ravutaumada. Yes, it was a high shot but replays showed it wasn’t serious and thus was a penalty only decision.

However, Davies appeared to somewhat milk the contact and stayed down holding his head, which irked Fiji scrum-half Frank Lomani who picked him up to his feet in frustration. Davies appeared to be more than fine to continue and despite a HIA check, he returned to the action at the beginning of the second period.

Social media did not like what they saw from the Wales number nine and while player safety is paramount, it did feel like Davies had stayed down unnecessarily.

Lady luck sides with Wales

It might sound harsh but how on earth did Wales get out of this match with a bonus-point win? Yes, they played well in spells and defended for their lives which will have pleased their coaching team, but they more than rode their luck in terms of Fijian mistakes while several of the officiating decisions were debatable.

Wales were leaking penalty after penalty on their own line late on before a card was forthcoming from Carley, yet when Fiji infringed shortly afterwards it was straight to the pocket, which upset their fans at the venue and many on X, formerly Twitter. Despite a 17-9 penalty count it finished with one yellow card apiece.

A look at the statistics further illustrates what a lucky escape this was for Wales as possession (61-39) and territory (65-35) were both in Fiji’s favour while the Welsh made 248 tackles to Fiji’s 70 and in attack the islanders finished with 652 metres gained to Wales’ 378. Fiji must be wondering how they lost this game.

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