Fiji's second-half blitz too much for Georgia
WORLD CUP REPORT: Fiji threw off the shackles with six second-half tries to outclass a willing Georgian team 45-10 in Osaka on Thursday.
The Pacific Islanders had a slender 7-3 lead at half-time, but second-half scores by Semi Radradra (twice), Frank Lomani, Josua Tuisova, Semi Kunatani and Api Ratuniyarawa saw them race clear and record their first win of the tournament.
After their opening loss to Australia and their shock defeat at the hands of Uruguay, their play-off hopes were gone before kick-off.
At least they restored some pride and put on display their great attacking skills – giving them a chance of finishing third in Pool D and claiming the automatic qualification for World Cup 2023.
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Coach John McKee had demanded a response from his players after that humiliating upset at the hands of Uruguay.
“That was a great effort by the boys,” said McKee after the game.
“Real arm-wrestle for the first 45 or 50 minutes but to come home so strong and score some really good tries was very pleasing.
“Great to see us scoring some tries out wide and showing our talents to the world.”
The game kicked off in torrential rain at the Hanazono Stadium and the opening exchanges were attritional, dominated by the set-piece and high kicks.
Fiji finally broke the deadlock after 19 minutes, Waisea Nayacalevu running in after a clever grubber kick pierced the organised Georgian defence.
The skies cleared but the slippery ball kept the handling errors high until Georgia produced a stunning move from their own line on the stroke of half-an-hour, falling just short of a try but coming away with three points.
In a tournament where the refereeing of high tackles has been a major talking point, Josua Tuisova could well have seen a card for a head shot, but Kiwi referee Paul Williams decided it was a penalty only.
The teams went into the break with Fiji 7-3 up after a half that was one for the purists in difficult conditions to play rugby.
‘Pretty hard to stop’
But as the rain eased, Fiji brought the crowd to life five minutes into the second half with a flowing try down the left from an outrageous offload, finished off by Frank Lomani.
Tuisova extended Fiji’s advantage after another slick backs move, outpacing fullback Soso Matiashvili for the score.
However, Georgia refused to lie down, brilliantly winning the ball from their own kick-off and overpowering the Fijian defence for veteran flank Mamuka Gorgodze to score his 27th international try.
But Fiji secured a potentially vital bonus point when Radradra cantered in from just inside the Georgian half, beating the covering tackle with a glorious step off his left foot.
Flank Semi Kunatani put the result beyond doubt with just over 10 minutes to go, bundling over from short range for Fiji’s fifth try, converted from wide out by fly-half Ben Volavola.
By now, the Flying Fijians were living up to their nickname and they produced a breathtaking try from the next kick-off, the ball passing through several hands over the length of the field for Api Ratuniyarawa to score.
And Radradra put the icing on the cake, sprinting down the left wing to dot down for a double.
Fiji next play Wales and will be ruing their loss to Uruguay, as they could have been in a position to secure a shock quarterfinal place.
Georgia face a tough last match against Australia and coach Milton Haig paid tribute to the Fijians, the “best in the world in open play.”
“Once you let them offload the ball and let them get in behind you with their line breaks, they are pretty hard to stop,” admitted Haig.
Man of the match: Georgia fullback Soso Matiashvili showed some great running skills and footwork of his own, while veteran flank Mamuka Gorgodze displayed all the raw power that Georgians are so famed for. You can look at the powerful Fijian runners like Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra and Waisea Nayacalevu. Scrumhalf Frank Lomani also had a very influential day at the office. However, the key was Fijian flyhalf Ben Volavola – who directed play in superb fashion, including a couple of sublime kicks.
Moment of the match: The Mamuka Gorgodze try in the 53rd minute briefly got Georgia back into the game at a time when it seemed it was slipping out of their grasp. The Semi Radradra try just on the hour mark finally ended the match as a contest, but it was the Frank Lomani try in the 45th minute – in which the Pacific Islanders put on display all the sublime skill of a Fijian backline in full flight.
Villain: There may have been a couple of head-high shots that should have had closer scrutiny from the match officials, but generally the game was played in great spirit.
Tries: Nayacalevu, Lomani, Tuisova, Radradra 2, Kunatani, Ratuniyarawa
Cons: Volavola 5
Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Giorgi Kveseladze, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze (captain), 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Gorgadze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Guram Gogichashvili, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Otari Giorgadze, 20 Beka Saginadze, 21 Gela Aprasidze, 22 Lasha Malaguradze, 23 Miriani Modebadze.
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Lepani Botia, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Peceli Yato, 7 Semi Kunatani, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Tuvere Vugakoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Peni Ravai, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Jale Vatubua, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)