Rugby World Cup 2003
Fiji overwhelm Japan
October 23, 2003
Vilimoni Delasau breaks clear of the rugged Japanese defence
© Getty Images
Fiji finally overcame stubborn Japanese resistance to win their World Cup Pool B clash with Japan in Townsville. Needing a victory to set up a potentially vital clash with Scotland in their final group match, Fiji led just 16-13 at half-time before taking advantage of tiring opponents to record 25 unanswered second-half points.
They also secured a bonus point for scoring five tries, with two each from Aisea Tuilevu and Norman Ligairi, but were far from convincing, especially against the opposing forwards. Recalled fly-half Waisale Serevi opened the scoring after just two minutes with a penalty, but Andy Miller levelled the scores 10 minutes later as Fiji conceded a penalty under serious pressure from the Japanese scrum.
Serevi's comeback did not last long however, the veteran forced off by injury to be replaced by Nicky Little who put Fiji back in front with another penalty on 15 minutes. Japan were giving as good as they got however and Miller again drew them level with a stunning drop goal from just inside his own half.
The Fijians then looked to be pulling away into a comfortable lead when Norman Ligairi started and finished a flowing move for the first try and Aisea Tuilevu took advantage of some woeful tackling to also cross the line. But with Little missing both conversions the gap was only 10 points and Japan were soon back in contention, Miller left completely unmarked to stroll in for a try after good work by his impressive forwards.
Miller converted to make the score 16-13 after 30 minutes but then missed two chances to level, the final one from inside his own half as the interval approached.
Tuilevu grabbed his second try 10 minutes into the second half and Little was successful with the conversion to restore Fiji's 10-point advantage. Little added another penalty before Ligairi collected his own kick through to claim his second try in the corner.
The tough conversion went astray but Little was more successful with his next attempt after Marika Vunibaka raced through the tiring Japanese defence, and the fly-half took his personal tally to 13 points with a late penalty.