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Heartbreak for Fiji see victory slip through their fingertips

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Sunday Sep 10, 2023

Fiji and Wales played out an instant Rugby World Cup classic in the Bordeaux heat this evening.

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Warren Gatland’s side would emerge victorious 32 – 26 as they survived a frantic Fijian comeback in the dying moments of the match.

By and large, the two sides were equal throughout, with each scoring some sublime tries, in particular Fiji’s second, which will no doubt be a contender for the try of the tournament.

Leading 32 – 14 with ten minutes to play, Wales appeared to have the match sewn up with the all-important bonus point secured.

Yet, as they have done many a time over the years, the Fijians cut loose, scoring two quick-fire tries to bring themselves back to within one score at 32 – 26 with just about a minute left to play.

As only Fiji can do, they launched a series of frenzy of attacks that stretched the Welsh defence from touchline to touchline.

Just as the dam wall appeared to be breaking, the ball went wide to Semi Radradra, who till that point had been simply world-class, with just about twenty meters in front of him and a couple of on-rushing defenders coming from awkward angles.

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One could’ve bet their house on the Lyon star crossing to set up what would’ve been a historical opportunity at a conversion to seal the victory. As all of those watching held their breath, the slippery ball slipped from his grasp, and with it, so too did Fiji’s famous would-be victory.

For Fijian fans and neutrals alike, there was a sense that all of the oxygen in the stadium had been removed as the pitch was littered with exhausted players in both white and red. Now left clutching to what could’ve been, Fiji will be ruing the fact that they had let this one slip following what had been, at times, a breathtaking of pure rugby excellence.

In reality, Fiji may also be feeling aggrieved that their chief goal kicker and tactician, Caleb Muntz, was so cruelly struck by injury just weeks before the tournament kick-off. As ever in the sometimes cruel but always spectacular arena of World Cup Rugby, this match will be a case of ifs and buts. In the end, there can be little argument that the Welsh didn’t contribute immensely to this clash and were full value for their victory.

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