SAINT-ETIENNE — Bravo, magnificent Fiji.
One of many nice Rugby World Cup performances passed off in Saint-Etienne because the impressed islanders generated a Wallabies implosion, blew Pool C extensive open, and recorded their first win over Australia in 69 years all within the house of 80 minutes.
To name the Flying Fijians’ 22-15 win over Australia an upset could be doing them an injustice, as not solely had been they positioned above the Wallabies on World Rugby’s rankings till final weekend, however such was the standard of their efficiency on the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard that it merely would not sit proper.
This was a efficiency of the best order, which got here amid the added stress of their World Cup survival — it was a triumph that can go down in event folklore. Their folks might be overflowing with delight as they wake early Monday morning again within the Pacific. Their heroes on the opposite facet of the world had been excellent, and a kava session or two is likely to be on the best way to start out the week.
Merely, the Fijians had been magnificent in practically each side of the sport. The deafening roar that erupted inside Le Cauldron when Simon Raiwalui’s staff drove over their opponents for a last scrum penalty — from which Frank Lomani missed a penalty that might have denied Australia what could but be a doubtlessly important dropping bonus level — was extraordinary.
“I am emotionally drained in the intervening time,” Fiji coach Simon Rauwalui stated. “I am actually pleased with the boys. It was a fantastic contest, a fantastic Australian facet. We’re Pacific neighbours so we all know one another properly. It was a fantastic match. It stored us guessing till the tip.”
Whereas this sport stand out amongst Fiji’s rugby historical past, it’s conversely one of many darkest moments in Australia’s current rugby previous. The Wallabies have indulged some ugly matches prior to now few years, a long time even, however this was amongst their worst on report as they had been defeated proper throughout the rugby spectrum, save for some late Fijian wobbles on the lineout.
Australia simply couldn’t get going. They had been obliterated on the breakdown, the place the Fijians, each backs and forwards, repeatedly capitalized on a weak Australian cleanout. The Wallabies kicked dreadfully, too, as they handed possession over to their opponents simply as they began to use some stress across the 22.
Nic White, Samu Kerevi and Jordan Petaia had been all responsible of that and the Monday assessment will make for painful viewing for every participant.
Along with that, Australia’s self-discipline was poor. They gave away 18 penalties to Fiji’s seven, with scrum-half Semi Kuruvoli constructing the first-half scoreboard stress off the again of that, stress the Wallabies could not ever muster after an early Ben Donaldson penalty and a considerably lucky Mark Nawaqanitawase attempt.
Not solely was Kuruvoli magnificent from the tee, however so too usually play. The place Australia’s kicking out of hand was horrific, the Fijian No. 9 hit his field kick targets every time; the ridiculous non-attempt, and breakdown in communication from Carter Gordon and Nawaqanitawase, which led to an important second-half attempt to Josua Tusiova, summed up the Wallabies’ night.
Tuisova, together with Kuruvoli, was supreme. The powerhouse inside centre performed all around the high of reverse Samu Kerevi, was a brick in defence and carried with authority in the kind of effort that makes you surprise how he was ever left on the bench in opposition to Wales final week.
However you could possibly namedrop each Fijian, such was the dedicated efficiency from numbers 15-1 — and past. There have been breakdown turnovers and a team-high 14 tackles — with no miss — from Levani Botia; scrum dominance from the front-row and tireless work on the deal with and past from the likes of Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Sam Matavesi and Viliame Mata.
A Suliasi Vunivalu attempt on 68 minutes gave Australia some hope of snatching no less than a draw, however such a flip of occasions would have simply felt incorrect; the Fijians had been actually deserving of their seven-point victory — and Australia extremely fortunate to stroll away with a dropping bonus level.
“Nicely, clearly upset. We began the sport very uncharacteristically, not like us,” Wallabies coach Eddie Jones stated. “We have been actually sharp at first of video games and performed with a good bit of tempo and precision and immediately was sloppy. Now, whether or not that was the physicality of Fiji after which from that, we had occasions within the sport the place we obtained on the entrance foot however we struggled to get on the entrance foot.
“Full congratulations to Fiji. They performed rather well and it was a deserved victory for them. I am actually happy for them as a staff and we have some work to do. We have Wales subsequent week. The wonderful thing about the World Cup event, it isn’t the tip of the highway, we have Wales subsequent week so we have to kick some stones tonight, work out the place we will enhance shortly after which get on with the sport in opposition to Wales.”
Earlier, Fiji had dominated the primary half, each with their play and thru the boot of scrum-half Kuruvoli. The Fijian Drua product was an ideal 4/4 from the tee within the first 40 and box-kicked fantastically, guaranteeing that each time Fiji acquired a restart he booted them again up area and out of hassle.
Australia, in the meantime, simply did not get up after Donaldson’s early penalty aim. The absence of skipper Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou was telling — the Wallabies couldn’t get any go-forward by the center of the paddock. Neither participant might be again for subsequent week, and that might be high of Jones’ issues.
Whereas Tom Hooper, Nick Frost and Fraser McReight poked their head by now and again, and Rob Valetini put his hand up repeatedly for a carry, simply as he has finished so usually for the Brumbies in Tremendous Rugby, there have been no successive line-bending runs and Fiji’s defence was properly organized.
The Flying Fijians had been additionally stable at scrum time. They drew a driving maul penalty from the Australians and received their lineout ball proper up till the ultimate 5 minutes of the primary half. At that time, the choice to kick to the nook and never again Kuruvoli’s boot from a penalty 15 in from contact, proper on the 22, was curious. The No. 9 had, as much as second, been radar-like from the tee and when the Wallabies picked off their lineout first steal of the match, adopted by a second, that call may have carried even larger weight.
Because it turned out, it was utterly inconsequential; Rauwalui later revealed how onerous Kuruvoli had been working with Fiji’s assistant coaches, and the proof was definitely on the market on Sunday night.
Australia’s solely shiny spot of the primary half had come from a Nic White 50/22 kick, and a few good considering from each Nawaqanitawase and Kerevi, who labored a fast lineout 1-2 for the Wallabies winger to select up his second attempt of the event and put Australia out to an 8-6 lead.
Even then, the function that lock Richie Arnold had performed for the turnover earlier than White’s punt appeared doubtful. Each particular person watching on could have their opinion as as to whether the Wallabies lock had pinched the ball earlier than going off his ft, however there was little doubt what the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard crowd thought as they booed the choice, adamant it ought to have been a penalty to Fiji again inside Australia’s half.
Whereas there was wholesome smattering of gold across the stadium, and Wallabies followers had stuffed varied bars on the stroll throughout city from the practice station earlier than kick-off, this was very a lot a pro-Fiji crowd. Each time the islanders made a break, the group roared; however any time the Wallabies acquired a penalty from referee Andrew Brace they jeered — simply as that they had finished for the announcement of Jones’ title pre-match.
Two video games in a row, the loudest boos of the weekend have been reserved for the 63-year-old Wallabies coach.
However there was treasured little else for Australia to crow about except for Nawaqanitawase’s attempt within the first half. Twice they kicked away possession when contained in the Fijians’ 30, whereas fly-half Carter Gordon was hammered in midfield, together with one time on the counter when he made a half break however then instantly coughed up possession.
Jones once more defended Gordon within the submit sport, as he has finished religiously all through this era, however he could properly need to ponder a positional shift for Donaldson and the promotion of Andrew Kellaway to fullback; however that might be admitting his religion in Gordon is wavering, and the coach will not be so eager to concede that his name to go away Quade Cooper out of the squad was incorrect, too.
“I made the choice to go for a youthful staff and if that is the incorrect determination then I might be held accountable for that,” Jones replied when it was put to him that his determination to carry a lot youth to the World Cup was backfiring. “However I believe Australian rugby wants to maneuver on to a youthful staff. I’m ready to undergo some ache to go away Australia with a staff able to doing rather well in a World Cup.
“That is to not say we will not do it, we have had a little bit of a setback immediately however that is all a part of being in a World Cup. I do keep in mind South Africa misplaced a sport and received a World Cup, so humorous issues have occurred.”
So the place does this depart Pool C?
Subsequent week’s conflict between Wales and Australia in Lyon has out of the blue taken on a complete new significance. It was thought that Pool C, of any group in France, could throw up a state of affairs the place the three groups favoured to advance — Wales, Fiji and Australia — may every take one sport from one another, making bonus factors vital.
Actually that was the case for Wales within the 83rd minute in opposition to Portugal on Saturday evening, and it’ll once more be vital in seven days’ time in Lyon.
And so Australia will head to OL Stadium about an hour up the highway from their Saint Etienne base realizing something however a win will probably see them again on a QANTAS flight certain for Sydney two weeks later, and an inconsequential conflict in opposition to Portugal to salvage some measure of delight beforehand.
Understanding how dangerous QANTAS have been again in Australia, the corporate’s govt board will probably be joyful to have the Wallabies on board, no less than to take some warmth of the nationwide service. Nonetheless, at this stage, the Wallabies dwell to combat one other week.
The Fijians in the meantime, jumped on their bus and made a shorter journey quarter-hour south to their Greatest Western Resort. No glitz, no glamour, only a staff content material in the truth that that they had simply achieved one of many nice wins from their nation’s proud rugby historical past — an unforgettable World Cup triumph that has put them firmly again within the event.