Josua Tuisova’s try and 14 points from Simione Kuruvoli helped Fiji shock Australia and record a famous 22-15 victory to keep their Rugby World Cup quarter-final hopes alive in Pool ‘C’ at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in France on Sunday.
The Wallabies had led twice through the boot of Ben Donaldson and an unconverted try from Mark Nawaqanitawase, but four penalty goals from Kuruvoli put Fiji into a deserved 12-8 lead at half time. Inside centre Tuisova then capitalised on some confusion in Australia’s defence to extend the Pacific Islanders’ lead with a converted try three minutes after the restart, and replacement Frank Lomani extended that to 14 points with a goal with a quarter of an hour left.
Australia hit back through Suli Vunivalu’s converted score as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes, but some impressive defence to repeatedly win turnovers in their own 22 helped Fiji hold on and secure their first win over the Wallabies since 1954, as well as keeping the fight to qualify from Pool ‘C’ very much alive.
The Wallabies seized the early initiative when a high tackle gave them a penalty in front of the posts three minutes in, which Donaldson kicked, but Fiji rallied as surging runs from Waisea Nayacalevu and Semi Radradra punched holes in their opponents’ defensive line.
Kuruvoli drew the Pacific Islanders level eight minutes later with a long-range penalty after Arnold was caught offside at a ruck, and then booted them into the lead with another effort from around 45 metres midway through the half.
Fiji, who were left aggrieved by some of the refereeing decisions in last week’s defeat to Wales, were left questioning another three minutes later as Australia hit back with an unconverted try from Nawaqanitawase.
Nic White’s 50-22 kick was followed by the winger taking a quick line-out to Samu Kerevi, followed by running a line to take a pass from the inside centre and finish. However, the Fijians felt there had been an illegal clear-out by Arnold at a ruck prior to this, but the officials were unmoved..
Nevertheless, Fiji did move further ahead before half time with Kuruvoli striking two further penalties on 27 and 33 minutes and showed their attacking intent by kicking for touch from an infringement in Australia’s 22 – only for a knock-on at the line-out to cost them the chance of a try.
Fiji did find their way over the line three minutes into the second half. Kuruvoli’s high box-kick caused chaos in Australia’s defence as Nawaqanitawase and Carter Gordon both jumped for the ball but pulled out mid-air, with inside centre Tuisova grabbing it and racing clear for a converted try. Ultimately, Fiji held their nerve and although Lomani put a penalty wide on the last play of the game, there was to be no denying them a first World Cup victory over Australia.