Rugby World Cup: Wale 23-13 Fiji
Wales breathe sigh of relief as Fiji prove once again worthy of more Tier 1 rugby
Sam Bruce
October 1, 2015
Halfpenny: The boys can go all the way
Related Links

It was nervy. It was unconvincing and, at times, it was just plain stupid. But Wales fans can now enjoy at least a few days when their collective pulse rate won't result in a surge of patients arriving at one of Cardiff's hospitals.

Thursday's exhilarating, if entirely heart-testing, 23-13 win over Fiji means Warren Gatland's side can peer into the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup. But they are not there just yet.

Should England fall to Australia at Twickenham on Saturday then the Red Dragons, playing in their black strip as it was at Millennium Stadium, can start thinking about a potential knockout clash with one of four teams from Pool B.

But before they sit down and watch the Wallabies attempt to match their own heroic endeavours of the weekend, they will first want to review a match in which they were sucked into playing a Sevens style of rugby in the second half -- one that played right into the Fijians' hands.

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

And then there was the scrum.

Earlier, it had all seemed to be going to plan. Winger George North punished a loose opening kick from the Fijians, the British & Lions winger surging up field to give his side the first shot at points inside the opening whistle. They were forced to settle for three after Fiji repelled the attack and then countered themselves; Wales surging back to draw first blood through a penalty. Gatland's side soon had their try, with half-back -- and Man of the Match -- Gareth Davies brushing off flimsy ruck defence to touch down next to the sticks inside 10 minutes.

Wales edge past Fiji in tight Pool A clash

It was the ideal start. But then it was time to scrum.

In something we should have perhaps expected after their strong showings against both England and Australia, Fiji's pack tore through their more-fancied counterparts to swing the momentum and fly-half Ben Volavola got them on the board with easily his best strike of another wayward night.

Again the momentum shifted back to Wales, with first Mathew Morgan and Gareth Davies combining to butcher a try before North was denied a try by the Television Match Official; referee John Lacey eventually penalising Bradley Davies for an illegal clean-out.

Their second five-pointer would eventually come through hooker Scott Baldwin, who finished off a goal-line scramble after Alun-Wyn Jones had run onto a sublime pass in the lead-up. Dan Biggar converted from the touchline and Volavola pulled a penalty back before the break, but all seemed so rosy -- or red, or black as the case was -- at half-time.

Wales were well on their way.

But then all hell broke loose. Thinking they were playing in Hong Kong or Las Vegas, Wales started to play Sevens rugby and Fiji roared back into the contest.

© Phil Walter/Getty Images

John McKee's side had threatened from long range at times during the first half, but not until a failed intercept attempt from Alex Cuthbert was scooped up by Asaeli Tikoirotuma were they able to roam down field; the scintillating counter-attack was eventually finished by Vereniki Goneva, Volavola converted, and the gap was just eight points.

And so the tension boiled. It was nail-biting watching even for the neutrals. For Welsh fans it must have been sheer torture. Their side were being bossed at the scrum and opened up through the middle and out wide. They kicked aimlessly, when they required certainty. It was surely sheer torture.

But they steadied. The effects of Saturday's exhausting clash with England must surely have tested their legs -- and lungs -- throughout the closing stages, but they steadied and, through the assured boot of Dan Biggar, were able to come away with a 10-point win.

© Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fiji, again, were gallant in defeat; they have been so in each of their matches against the England, Australia and now Wales. Their scrum has improved out of sight and but for unfortunate penalty misses they may have been in contention for the quarterfinals.

Fiji need more top-level rugby and it's up to the game's administrators to ensure they get; a tour from a Wallabies side featuring Fijian stars like Henry Speight and Tevita Kuridrani should be a priority.

Wales' attention, meanwhile, shifts to Twickenham on Saturday. Asked if we would be supporting the Wallabies, Gatland insisted he'd remain a neutral: "It's a bit hard for a Kiwi to be jumping up and cheering for Aussies".

Wonder if the Welsh fans agree?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.