The Stade Geoffroy-Guichard de Saint-Éttiene hosted one of the most anticipated matches of the second date of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France with the Group C clash between Australia and Fiji.
Dominion of Fiji
The Wallabies took the lead first on the scoreboard with three minutes left from an early penalty from Ben Donaldson. However, this early setback would do no harm to Fiji as they continue to approach the game with their characteristic chaotic dynamism.
The Fijians were on the oval in the opening minutes, asserting themselves in the formations, in a duel where scrums and lines were too frequent.
In the 12th minute, a penalty from Simione Kuruvoli finally equalized. This bucket of cold water would serve to wake up the Australians, who would get back on the offensive in a physical battle, but Fiji would become more involved in the game to maintain dominance throughout the game.
Australia would put up greater resistance from that moment on, but their possessions would be too short and Fiji would regain the oval too quickly. In fact, the Simon Raiwalui-led XV recorded almost 70% possession at the start of the first quarter of an hour.
The game lacked fluidity. Collection, formation, execution, two or three passes and loss of the ball. That was the tone of a game marked by inaccuracy in attack and ferocity in defense.
With this in mind, Fiji recognized the need to step up their attacks and capitalized on a Kuruvoli penalty in the 20th minute to take a 3-6 lead.
Wallabies try to answer
However, Australia responded quickly to the first major attack from the Wallabies, who quickly advanced through the right sector after a quick attack off the line by Mark Nawaqanitawase, who was also responsible for finishing the game and scoring the first try, which ended the game in the 23rd minute, the game ended 8:6.
The Fijians would take the lead again with another penalty from Simione Kuruvoli (27th minute), but Eddie Jones’
Kuruvoli dared to take another penalty from a very difficult position, but managed to send the ball into the H, allowing his team to extend the lead to 8-12.
Fiji surprised the Australians very early in the second half when Josua Tuisova caught the ball in the air and attacked without much resistance down the left sector until she shot into the Wallabies’ goal. Kuruvoli managed a great corner kick, so after 44 minutes the scoreboard read 8:19 for Fiji.
Kuvoli was substituted shortly after this action and, strangely, the first penalty after his departure came from a good position but was sent outside the H while the Fijian kicker, who shone in the first half, smiled from the bench.
The duel was flat and blocked, with neither team finding a way to penetrate the opposing defense. However, this was not a major problem for the Flying Fijians who were in the lead.
Final illusions and the return to triumph
Fiji thought they would end Australia’s hopes of winning the game as we approached the final quarter of an hour with Frank Lomani’s penalty leaving them 14 points clear of their rivals, but the Wallabies responded with a try from Suli Vunivalu Winning in row and mouth. Donaldson scored the conversion that would leave the two-time world champions just seven minutes behind the Fijians: there were ten minutes left and Australia reminded everyone that the story wasn’t over yet.
The last few minutes were intense, the Australians trying to win the game and the Fijians trying to finish the game. Ultimately, the distance achieved during the game led to Fiji securing a victory against the Wallabies for the first time in 69 years and recording their first victory at the 2023 World Cup in France.