Rugby World Cup 2007
Fiji see off Canada
September 16, 2007
Kameli Ratuvou breaks the length of the field to score the final try for Fiji
© Getty Images
Fiji held off a determined challenge from Canada to record a 29-16 victory in the Rugby World Cup Pool B clash at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Fiji held off a determined second-half comeback from Canada to complete their second bonus-point World Cup victory in the space of four days. The victory moved Fiji above Wales in Pool B midway through the group stages but, of wider significance, it also took them a huge step closer to automatic qualification for the 2011 World Cup.
Under newly-introduced regulations, the team finishing third in each pool now earns automatic qualification to the next World Cup. Fiji opened a 15-6 half-time lead with tries from lock Kele Leaware and Saracens full-back Kameli Ratuvou and moved further clear shortly after the interval when Vilimoni Delasau bulldozed over next to the posts.
But Canada refused to concede defeat and hit back with a try from fly-half Ryan Smith and three penalties from James Pritchard to ensure the match was in the balance heading into the final seconds. Canada, who had already seen one potential try ruled out by the video referee for a double movement, were decamped on the Fijian line determined to use their superiority in the tight to drive their way over for the winning try.
But Fiji held on and when the ball squeezed out of the ruck, Ratuvou was on hand to race 95 metres for his second try to seal the win and the bonus point. Fiji were electric and erratic in equal measure while the Canadians were reliant on a more physical approach. The contrast in styles made for an engrossing contest.
Canada had Fiji under pressure at close quarters in the first half and Pritchard converted two penalties - but could not match the islanders' dynamic attacking style as soon as the game opened up. Fiji stretched the Cannucks' defence with a blistering attack from the back of a lineout and winger Isoa Neivua skipped around one tackle down the left touchline but was caught just before the line and his offload went to ground.
After Fiji's fly-half Nicky Little had levelled the scores with a penalty, Canada wasted a golden try-scoring opportunity. Flanker Jamie Cudmore failed to make use of a five-on-three overlap down the left side and charged head down into the tackle.
In contrast, a slick Fijian backs move sent Ratuvou free down the right wing. The Saracens winger, playing at full-back, cut inside but was caught just before the line by a brilliant tackle from Morgan Williams.
But Fiji kept the pressure on and after a series of quick rucks drew in the Canadian defenders, Leicester centre Seru Rambeni sent Leawere crashing over under the posts for his second try of the tournament. Pritchard reduced the arrears with a penalty for offside - but Canada were struggling to cope with Fiji's instinctive attacking prowess.
Prop Jone Railomo produced a deft offload to send Fiji away and after a clever step from lock Ifereimi Rawaqa took out two defenders Ratuvou breezed over for the score. Within two minutes of the restart, Delasau broke through the Canadian defence and bulldozed his way over the line to extend Fiji's advantage.
Pritchard missed a penalty and things began to look difficult for Canada as Delasau embarked on a brilliant jinking run and the Fijians found some attacking rhythm. But Canada regrouped and the holes began to open up as they piled forward and Ryan Smith burst over next to the posts to bring the Cannucks to within two scores.
Pyke tried to crash through Neivua to touch down - only for the decision to be referred upstairs and television official Craig Joubert ruled he a made double movement. A third penalty from Pritchard set up a grandstand finish but Canada could drive their way through the Fijian defence and were stung on the counter-attack in the final seconds.
Fiji (15) 29
Canada (6) 16
Fiji: Ratuvou, Delasau, Rabeni, Bai, Neivua, Little, Rauluni, Dewes, Koto, Railomo, Leawere, Rawaqa, Naevo, Qera, Koyamaibole.
Replacements: Sauturaga, Qiodravu, Talei, Qovu, Daunivucu, Kunavore, Ligairi.
Canada: Pyke, Van der Merwe, Culpan, Spicer, Pritchard, Smith, Williams, Snow, Riordan, Thiel, Burak, James, Cudmore, Biddle,
Replacements: Carpenter, D. Pletch, M. Pletch, Tait, Fairhurst, Yukes, Monro.
Referee: T Spreadbury (England)