Wales vs Fiji has historically been a pretty competitive affair with both sides getting one over on each other in recent year. Despite Wales playing twice heading into this game, it still felt like much an unknown commodity. Although they put up a spirited performance against South Africa, they still have large stretches of each game in which the Rugger is painful to watch. Loose kicks, a lack of synergy in the centres and a rotating front row have all contributed to glaring holes in attack and defence. Fiji are, as Fiji always have been, unpredictable. Scintillating in attack, a little loose in defence, and sorely lacking superstars based overseas for this affair. How would the game play out?
Lack of respect?
This Welsh side were clearly instructed to entertain rather than to punish and it really showed. If Fiji went on to win this game, you have to highlight the poor decision making when it came to putting points on the board by Wales. Kick to corner after wasted kick to corner, Wales looked execute before they even had the game locked up.
With every wasted opportunity, the very talented Volavola kept the scoreboard ticking, and by the 50 minute mark, it started to get quite ugly for a Welsh team who had largely dominated possession. Of all the teams to play against the South Sea Islanders, you would have thought Wales might have paid this test match with a little more respect than just flailing for the jugular.
Tut tut tut, this must have had that Fijian coaching team losing their minds. First things first, that red card is absolutely a red card – whether you’re a traditionalist or not, a swinging arm to the head of a downed opponent is not kosher, and whether it was slowed down or not is really irrelevant to what was the physical outcome. At the time it happened, you could feel it was going to be a gamechanger.
The two yellow cards that followed were a result of continued indiscipline, and whether you agree with the refereeing or not, Fiji did continuously put themselves in situations that put them at risk. They couldn’t handle the driving maul from the back of the lineout, and despite the Welsh pack making a meal out of things at the best of times, Fiji just had no answer for it.
Wales weren’t entirely innocent themselves, especially when territory was against them. Some silly breakdown penalties kept them really under the cosh and you could tell it was hurting their momentum.
What Wales did do well, was keep their intensity from starting whistle through to the final whistle. Despite some silly errors, you can’t really say that this Wales side weren’t prepared to grind out a result, and sometimes that’s a positive sign – I believe so in this case too. When we look back to the Six Nations, what could we give merit to Wales doing time and time again? Grinding out difficult matches. Their defence, with the exception of that New Zealand drubbing, is gutsy as heck, especially considering that they don’t have the sheer size of personnel that Ireland and England have.
Conversely, Fiji, as their reputation suggests, did suffer massively in the final ten minutes of both halves. They were fairly lucky to not be dealt bigger blows in those final moments, and being there at the Principality, you could see the energy levels fall to pieces as the game began to wrap up. They lacked cohesiveness around the fringes as soon as the forwards began to tire, and when down to 14, or even 13 men, you could tell they really felt that squeeze in the tight.
A Tale of Two Halves
In the first half, I can honestly say I was losing my rag at the Welsh attacking shape. Not only did Biggar at times look disinterested in his wider backline’s formation, but sometimes he seemed oblivious to whether they were even close to him. However, I can’t put all of the blame on him, because LRZ had a howler in that first half. Overrunning the ball on multiple occasions, dropping the ball on others, hitting heavy traffic and being thrown backwards constantly; he looked absolutely toasted.
Cuthbert as well, had a pretty s***ty first half, also being caught flat footed and indecisive. However, both Wingers put in decisive performances in the second half which resulted in Wales snatching victory. A fantastic, poacher’s finish by Cuthbert came first, showcasing his underestimated acceleration in full force. As we have come to expect, LRZ’S speed came in handy once again, collecting a wonderful kick chase for an excellent score (even if that score is as controversial as they come).
Nick Tompkins, Alex Cuthbert, Ben Volavola, Ryan Elias, Waisea Nayacalevu
Dan Biggar, Eroni Sau, Kieran Hardy
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