VIDEO: 'The players always find resources that I never expected'
SUNDAY REACTION: Fiji claimed the last place in the World Cup quarterfinals in the most dramatic of fashions on Sunday.
They suffered a shock 23-24 loss against Portugal, but picking up a bonus point which was enough to knock Australia out of the tournament.
Fiji, who only needed one point from the game, finished runners-up in Pool C – behind Wales – and will play England in Marseille next Sunday, a day after Argentina, who also qualified with victory over Japan, take on Wales at the same Stade Vélodrome.
The result of the 40th and final pool game of the tournament, settled by a 78th-minute converted try by Rodrigo Marta, also consigned the Wallabies to third spot in Pool C, the two-time champions missing out on the knock-out phase for the first time ever.
The Fijians looked out of sorts in a nervy display marred by several handling errors under intense pressure from Portugal, whose victory – thanks to a converted try two minutes from time – was their first at a World Cup.
“It is incredible and unbelievable,” said Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet.
“The players always find resources that I never expected.
“That last try, it was amazing.
“They still surprise me after four years and it is an incredible group.”
All square, 3-all at half-time, the game burst into life in the second half when Raffaele Storti touched down for the Portuguese.
Fiji hit back three minutes later through Levani Botia but with the flank yellow-carded for a high tackle, the Portuguese struck again through prop Francisco Fernandes.
The Fijians came back once more in the last quarter and appeared to have won it when Mesake Doge scored a try, with Frank Lomani adding the conversion and two penalties.
Portugal, however, struck dramatically through Marta with Samuel Marques’ conversion clinching the win.
“We’re disappointed to not get that win,” said Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui.
“We were a bit tired in terms of the context of the game but Portugal can enjoy tonight [Sunday].”
Turning to England, Raiwalui added: “We have got to reassess tomorrow and recover, they are a very good tournament team England.”
(Article continues below the Portugal post-match media briefing …)
Wing Mateo Carreras scored a hat-trick of tries as Argentina beat Japan 39-27 in a thriller in Nantes to finish as Pool D runners-up behind England, booking a quarterfinal against Wales.
Defeat meant Japan failed to advance to the knock-out phase.
“We are where we want to be,” said Argentina coach Michael Cheika.
“But we want to go further, we want to reach the semi-final and the final, that’s clear.”
In a roller-coaster game at the Stade de la Beaujoire in glorious, sunny conditions, both sides threw caution to the wind, Argentina eventually outscoring the Brave Blossoms by five tries to three.
The Pumas made a sensational start, Marcos Kremer pounding Japan captain Kazuki Himeno from the kick-off and then producing a driving maul before the ball was recycled right into the hands of Santiago Chocobares.
The Toulouse centre broke a tackle in midfield and sidestepped full-back Lomano Lemeki for a brilliant try with barely two minutes gone.
Japan lock Amato Fakatava then produced a superb individual effort but with the Brave Blossoms down to 14 with flank Pieter Labuschagne off the field, Carreras went over for his first try.
Just before half-time Naoto Saito touched down for Japan and with Rikiya Matsuda converting, they only trailed 15-14 at the turnaround.
Argentina drew first blood in the second period as Carreras grabbed his second try after good work by Chocobares but a Matsuda penalty and a long-range drop from Lemeki kept it tight.
Emiliano Boffelli and Jone Naikabula then traded tries to make for a tense final 10 minutes but Carreras skipped through a tiring defence for his third try to seal the Pumas a place in the last eight.
Tonga, meanwhile, completed their World Cup with a 45-24 win over Romania in Lille to finish fourth in Pool B behind leading nations Ireland, South Africa and Scotland.
In an entertaining match, Tonga scored seven tries, including two for Solomone Kata and one for George Moala, while Romania touched down three times.
“We need more games, simple as that, but how they do it is the question,” said a frustrated Tonga coach Toutai Kefu after the match.