Fiji defeated Australia 22-15 for the first time in 69 years and sent a jolt of joy rippling through the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
The Fijians had to win to stay in the hunt for their first quarter-final berth in 16 years, and lived to fight on while putting the heat back on Wales and Australia, who meet next Sunday. One of the trio won’t make it out of Pool C.
Famed for being rugby’s greatest ad-libbers, Fiji put the razzle-dazzle away and won in a very un-Fijian traditional way: Strong set-piece, breakdown domination, hard yards by the forwards, brick-wall defence, and relentless commitment for 80 minutes.
The Fijians were disciplined, composed and clinical in a heavily defensive game of few chances.
This result was not on the scale of Japan beating South Africa in 2015 or that much of an upset. This result was coming. Fiji crushed the Pacific Nations Cup. It pushed France close and toppled England at Twickenham in the warm-ups, then would have beaten Wales last weekend with even an ounce of luck in their pool opener.
Australia has brought to the Rugby World Cup its youngest squad in 20 years, a squad still learning how to win. A Fiji side that has been around the block several times gave the Wallabies a lesson that the Australians had given the Fijians in their previous 18 matches dating to 1961.
South Africa 76, Romania 0
BORDEAUX, France – South Africa thumped Romania 76-0 at the Rugby World Cup with hat tricks from scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and wing Makazole Mapimpi on Sunday, putting the defending champion in prime position for a huge showdown with top-ranked Ireland next. The Springboks had the first four of their 12 tries and a bonus point inside 12 minutes in Bordeaux, and Reinach had his third try in the 24th minute to just miss his own record for the fastest hat trick at the Rugby World Cup, which he set four years ago. South Africa went over five times in the first half and seven times in the second to dismantle the underdog Romanians in a Pool B match that was one-sided from the start. Away from the convincing result, South Africa also made big gains with some of its tactical experiments, with Grant Williams, normally a scrumhalf, showing his searing pace to get two of the tries after starting as a wing.
England 34, Japan 12
NICE, France – England first wore Japan down then scored a bizarre try and rolled to a 34-12 win and a second straight victory at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday. With Japan trailing only 13-12 nearing the hour mark, the odd try gave England breathing space. Flyhalf George Ford’s pass glanced off prop Will Stuart’s arm backward and ricocheted forward off prop Joe Marler’s mohawk into the grateful hands of captain Courtney Lawes who walked in between the posts. Ford’s conversion made it 20-12. Moments later, Japan cut through England’s defence but knocked on with the line in sight and momentum was lost. England’s third try soon followed, when Ford sent a clever crosskick from right to left and fullback Freddie Steward caught it and twisted into the corner. Coach Steve Borthwick’s England is not playing well and kicking too much, but is in pole position to win Pool D.
On Saturday, Ireland beat Tonga 59-16, Wales beat Portugal 28-8 and Samoa thumped Chile 43-10.