RWC #41: Fiji dump Wales out after Nantes thriller in 2007

Another defeat to a Pacific Island nation for the Welsh who fail to reach quarter-finals

Wales are disconsolate and Fiji ecstatic after their 38-34 win in the final pool game of the 2007 World Cup in Nantes. Photograph: Getty

Wales are disconsolate and Fiji ecstatic after their 38-34 win in the final pool game of the 2007 World Cup in Nantes. Photograph: Getty

 

When it comes to top tier nations suffering shock World Cup defeats, Wales have taken the bullet more often than most.

They were the side to fall victim to the original World Cup upset, as they lost 19-13 to Western Samoa in Cardiff in 1991. Eight years later they were beaten by Samoa in Cardiff again, losing 38-31 in the pool stages and being dumped out of the tournament.

For some reason Wales have always been vulnerable against the Pacific Island nations. Maybe it’s because they are too easily tempted into a game of fast, open rugby with plenty of play from broken-field, something which plays into the hands of the likes of Samoa and particularly Fiji.

And this was certainly the case in 2007, when Gareth Jenkins’ side met Fiji in Nantes in a straight shootout for a place in the quarter-finals.

Wales had been dogged by slow starts throughout the tournament and it wasn’t long before they were chasing the game at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

After 16 minutes Akapusi Qera went over for Fiji’s first try. Moments later Vilimoni Delasau had another after he chipped down the line and chased what seemed a hopleess cause, only to somehow pluck the ball from between Gareth Thomas and Mark Jones and touch down.

Fiji were relentless. Quera broke from deep and Kele Leaware barged his way over. 25 minutes gone and Fiji were 25-3 up.

Alex Popham gave Wales a life line before the resurrection began in the second half. The inspiration for Wales’ fightback was, as it so often was, Shane Williams.

Receiving the ball just outside the Welsh 22 he burnt down the wing, before dummying a kick down the line and stepping inside once, twice and scorching under the posts. Magic.

The tide had turned and Wales pressed, Gareth Thomas, on his 100th cap, went over before Jones finished another electric attacking move to give Wales a 29-25 lead.

Two Nicky Little penalties edged Fiji back in front, but with 73 minutes a Martyn Williams interception try had surely finished it.

But Fiji weren’t dead just yet and they rallied for one final charge. They attacked, Delasau was held up just short before Graham Dewes grunted and shunted his way over, putting his side 38-34 in front.

A very un-Fijian try to seal a famous Fijian win.

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