Player ratings: Fiji
OPINION: After the tight loss to Wales last week, Fiji responded with an emphatic 22-15 win against the Wallabies in Saint Etienne to shake up Pool C.
The crowd favourites took at 12-8 half-time led with four penalties off the boot of livewire No 9 Simione Kuruvoli, before a key try to Josua Tuisova early in the second half blew the game open.
Fiji’s superior breakdown effort kept Australia at bay as they held on for a famous 22-15 win.
Here’s how the Fijians rated:
1. Eroni Mawi – 8
Monstered Carter Gordon in a ball-and-all tackle on a blind side switch that will give the Wallaby No 10 nightmares, forcing a knock-on in the process. Led the Fijian front row with a high work rate, completing 9 tackles in the first half alone. Produced two big turnovers. Off at 50.
The scrum & maul was firing for Fiji. It collapsed often but the ref allowed plenty of resets. Fiji didn’t concede any scrum penalties in the first half and won a penalty on their first scrum in the second half, while the first maul drew a penalty for collapsing.
Overall the starting pack really had the upper hand over Australia, particularly at the breakdown as the match wore on.
2. Sam Matavesi – 8.5
Matavesi was one of the best on the field during his 50 minutes on. Gave away a penalty with a high shot on Petaia early, but was critical in a solid Fijian set-piece. Completed his first six throws at the lineout and showed magnificent skill on a lineout play to rip a long pass out to the backs. Still finished with a team-high six carries. The biggest blemish was two key lineouts late in the first half as Fiji turned down points for the corner. Off at 50.
3. Luke Tagi – 8
The powerful prop gave Fiji good gain line with four carries. He put in a mammoth effort after being recalled into action. Off at 50 but back on from 58, Tagi finished with nine tackles, anchored a strong Fijian scrum & maul throughout his time on.
4. Isoa Nasilasila – 7
Was the most reliable jumping lineout option for Matavesi. Defensively a workhorse with 11 tackles. Off at 67.
5. Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta – 7
Involved in the dirty work with plenty of clean outs and tackles. Came up with a big turnover with 20 minutes to go on Jordan Uelese forcing a holding on penalty. Finished with 10 tackles.
6. Lekima Tagitagivalu – 6
Didn’t have the impact as the others with his carries but toiled away in defence making 10 tackles. First throw to the No 6 was tipped and turned.
7. Levani Botia – 9
Ever-present at the breakdown, competing hard for Fiji both on attack and defence. His elevation into the starting line-up proved to be a masterstroke as he was everywhere. Forced a key strip on Valetini carrying on first phase with the Wallabies in good field position. Came up with another key penalty at the breakdown over Nawaqanitawase with the Wallabies pressing into Fiji’s 22. His only error was a bobbled transfer on a big chance to peel from the lineout late in the first half. Finished with 14 tackles and three turnovers won after a demolition job on Australia. Off at 59.
8. Viliame Mata – 5
A rather quiet night for the skillful No 8 who parked out on the left side in Fiji’s attack early and looked to attack in the wide channels. Took some thundering carries with a massive wind-up into the Australian defence. Finished with five tackles and three tackles.
9. Simione Kuruvoli – 9
Electric and zippy halfback who brought speed and tempo for Fiji. Looked dangerous with ball-in-hand with every touch. Took over the kicking duties and nailed his first penalty from 40m out and second from about 44m. Kicked 4/4 off the tee in the first half and nailed his fifth from the sideline early in the second.
Box kicked well out of exit situations. Was putting together a man-of-the-match performance before he came off after 47 mins shortly after going down with cramps.
10. Teti Tela – 6
Cleared the lines for Fiji and sent runners into the green and gold wall as the distributor in Fiji’s pattern. Kicked his restarts well and provided an error-free performance to drive Fiji around the park.
11. Semi Radradra – 6
Another off night for Radradra but he came up with a clutch play towards the end to help seal the win. Threw a forward pass during a wave of Fiji’s attack early. Had an opportunity down the left side from a Fiji scrum but was cleaned up by Samu Kerevi in cover.
Caught napping a bit after a 50-22 by Australia with a quick throw-in which led to Nawaqanitawase’s try. Lost his first couple of high ball contests but was involved in the chase leading to Tuisova’s try. Knocked-on at the base of the ruck just after Fiji won possession from a strong counter-attack. Looked his best when he carried in the midfield. Came up with a big breakdown penalty to stop a Wallabies raid with seven to go.
12. Josua Tuisova – 8
Was a little bit of a mixed bag for Tuisova but ultimately proved to be a difference maker. He was penalised attempting to wrap Valetini high which gave the Wallabies their first three points. However, he proved to be a handful at No 12 any time he carried. He ran at Kerevi with his first powerful carry. Ran straight over Gordon with his next. Scored a breakaway try after Carter Gordon let a box kick bounce with the midfielder getting the dream bounce and run away try.
Missed a big opportunity in the 51st minute with an overlap advantage, went for the cutout pass to Radradra which sailed forward over the touch line. Gave away a penalty for a high shot at 63 mins but made up for it moments later by winning a breakdown penalty.
Defensively was strong in the midfield with Botia providing cover inside in the 10 channel. Off at 67.
13. Waisea Nayacalevu – 7
His first touch looked like slicing through the Wallabies midfield on a wide strike from the lineout. Didn’t get much quality ball in the first half. Was strong defensively when needed, looking to hold up Wallaby runners and force collapsed mauls. The captain made his presence felt with a great cover tackle on Koroibete late.
Broke the line with minutes to go and found Habosi for a would-be game-winner but the Wallabies covered.
14. Jiuta Wainiqolo – 5
Showed a dangerous right foot step but threw a mistimed offload for a turnover on one scrum play to the right. Had a well-timed kick chase on a box kick where his two-man tackle put Gordon over the sideline. Came off early in the second half with an injury after pushing an offload in the tackle.
15. Ilaisa Droasese – 6.5
His kicking game at the back was key to relieving pressure for Fiji. Linked well with his wingers giving them the space by drawing the last man on multiple occasions. Cleaned up in the backfield on the few occasions he was required to. Marshalled a Petaia kick wisely over the dead ball line early in the second half, but got turned and penalised on a kick return.
16 Tevita Ikanivere – 4 – On at 50. Set-piece fell apart for Fiji with the entire new front row. Missed multiple throws as the lineout malfunctioned. Wallabies managed to win their first scrum penalty.
17 Peni Ravai – N/A – On at 50. Limited opportunities with one carry and two tackles.
18 Mesake Doge – N/A – On at 50 but back off at 58 with injury.
19 Temo Mayanavanua – N/A – On at 66.
20 Albert Tuisue – 4 – Big platform carry on his first effort in the midfield. Lost a couple of breakdown battles.
21 Frank Lomani – 5 – On at 42. A nervous start dropping an offload from Matavesi. Missed his first penalty attempt after replacing the ace goal kicker. Kicked his second attempt which proved crucial.
22 Vilimoni Botitu – N/A- On at 67. Replaced man-of-the-match Tuisova.
23 Vinaya Habosi – 6 – On at 43 min – Took two key kick-off restarts and saved Fiji. Got called offside on a key kick chase which had Vunivalu pinned over the sideline. Almost had the game-winner in the 78th.