Sunday 16 June 2019

Davies inspirational as Welsh edge closer to last-eight spot

Wales 23 Fiji 13

Wales' Scott Baldwin is tackled by Fiji's Manasa Saulo (left) and Niki Goneva (right)
Wales' Scott Baldwin is tackled by Fiji's Manasa Saulo (left) and Niki Goneva (right)
Wales' Luke Charteris in action
Wales' Scott Baldwin is tackled by Fiji's Manasa Saulo (left) during the Rugby World Cup match

Wales moved top of World Cup Pool A after claiming a third successive win that left host nation England one defeat away from elimination.

In the end, tries by outsscrum-half Gareth Davies and hooker Scott Baldwin - plus 13 points from fly-half Dan Biggar's ultra-reliable right boot - edged Wales home.

Fiji replied through a brilliant Vereniki Goneva try, while fly-half Ben Volavola booted a conversion and two penalties, yet Wales had just enough to get home.

It means that England must beat Australia at Twickenham tomorrow - a bonus point draw would also keep them afloat - or they will face the humiliation of exiting their own World Cup after just 15 days.

Deep

Wales ultimately dug deep just five days after their Twickenham heroics, and while Biggar gingerly left the action seven minutes from time, there were no apparent fresh injury setbacks.

Warren Gatland's men can now sit back and relax and watch one of England's biggest games since they won the World Cup 12 years ago, knowing that an England loss would mean they march on and secure a last-eight place.

The opening five minutes were played at a madcap pace, with Wales immediately making their intentions clear through a superb George North break.

Although Fiji initially held out, it could not last, and Wales went ahead through a seventh-minute touchdown from Twickenham try hero Davies when he threw a dummy pass to Fiji's last line of defence before crossing unopposed.

Biggar added the conversion, but Wales' Twickenham nemesis - their scrum - resurfaced as Fiji established early set-piece supremacy before opening their account with a Volavola penalty. And while a Biggar penalty made it 10-3, it should have been a more convincing lead, given full-back Matthew Morgan's attacking brilliance.

But Wales did not deviate from their attacking philosophy, and a superb Biggar break freed World Cup debutant Tyler Morgan in space. And when Morgan was tackled short, Baldwin picked up to crash over.

Another Biggar conversion made it 17-3, yet Wales could not escape their scrummaging problems, and a second successful Volavola penalty as a direct result of those issues cut the deficit to 11 points by the half-time break.

After the restart, Fiji breached Wales' defence in spectacular fashion, cutting loose from deep when wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma sprinted clear, and a stunning move ended with Goneva touching down, before Volavola's conversion underlined it was a case of game on.

Biggar helped to calm things by landing a long-range penalty for his 12th successful World Cup kick from 12 attempts.

There was no pattern or predictability to the game, which suited Fiji, yet another Biggar penalty opened up a 10-point advantage and Fiji finally had no reply.

wales - M Morgan (J Hook 70); A Cuthbert (L Williams 19-26), T Morgan, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar (R Priestland 72), G Davies; G Jenkins (A Jarvis 66), S Baldwin (K Owens 54), T Francis (S Lee 49), B Davies (L Charteris 13-26, 66), AW Jones, D Lydiate (J Tipuric 68), S Warburton (capt), T Faletau.

Fiji - M Talebula; T Nagusa, V Goneva (J Matavesi 70), L Botia (K Murimurivalu 74), A Tikoirotuma; B Volavola, N Kenatale (H Seniloli 70); C Ma'afu (P Ravia 76), S Koto (V Veikoso 74), M Saulo (L Atalifo 76), T Cavubati (N Soqeta 68), L Nakarawa, D Waqaniburotu (M Ravulo 68), A Qera (capt), N Talei.

ref - J Lacey (Ireland)

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