England, Wales eye finals

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Braves Blossoms lost their steam in their quarterfinals against South Africa. Photo: NikkeiAsia

In spite of the last minute effort by the Welsh to comeback and snatch a win from France; the Red Dragons look the better contender to advance to the finals against England in a fortnight.

Watching the game on television last night, the French had done enough to win the match but didn’t have the killer punch to amass enough points to keep the margin clear from the grasp of the Six Nations champion, Wales.

But the unlucky red card on French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina for smashing his elbow into the face of flanker Aaron Wainwright in a needless moment of foul play weakened Les Bleus playing the last half-hour with 14 men.

The nine-point margin was chewed up by a penalty and a converted try which pushed Wales 20-19 to pip the French on full time.

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The unleashing of Bok’s halfback Faf de Clerk’s box kicks softened the attack from the Brave Blossoms. Photo: World Rugby

The last quarterfinal between unheralded hosts Japan and South Africa was a tussle of strength and strategy with the Springboks’ so simple and decisive.

Playing to their strength in the height with tons of high balls, the Boks cut off the successful ground assaults that the Japanese had utilised in their pool matches especially against Ireland and Scotland.

The tackling by the South Africans was increased and the effective ploy in the elimination of the speed and power in the two wideouts Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima, sometimes gang tackling by the heavier Boks’ defenders.

The intensive running game by the Brave Blossoms in their last match against the Scots had sapped the strength of the forwards, especially the loose forwards who had seemingly had endless supply of energy.

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Kiwis eying a three-peat. Photo: World Rugby

Pivot Yu Tamura who had amassed a total of 51 points; had an off day with his attacks and bag of options in pinpoint cross and grubber kicks which had softened the sharpness of attacks witnessed during the pool games.

The open show of emotions by the Japanese in weeping with the loss by both players and fans has characterised the 2019 Rugby World Cup as a tournament that gave freedom for expression for men to publicly weep.

Incidently, the weeping by the players and fans were not confined to the quarterfinal loss but were witnessed in the victories over tier one nations Ireland and Scotland in the pool matches.

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The Red Dragons score a try against Les Bleus. Photo: Independent

England are beginning to show glimpses of their armory with the dispatching of Australia 40-16 in the earlier quarterfinals on Saturday and the Kiwis dismissed Ireland with a 46-14 scoreline.

England is the only team that can match New Zealand with brute strength and swiftness of play so the winners of the first semi-final this Saturday may very well walk away with the spoils, the Webb-Ellis Cup.

Wales have the size and strength to match the Springboks in the second semi-final but both teams currently don’t have the firepower and defence to match the first semi-finalist opponents.

England looks like the form team to win a second title.

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England left wing Johny May scored the first try against the Wallabies. Photo: BBC

 

 

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, All Blacks, England, Focus on rwc, Rugby World Cup, South Africa, Springboks, Wales, William Webb-Ellis Cup

Flying Fijians have landed

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The Flying Fijians acknowledge the crowd after beating Georgia 45-10 at the Hanazono Stadium. Photo: Yahoo

The Flying Fijians have landed back home to a mild reception after a mediocre Rugby World Cup tournament finishing third in their Pool D with Wales topping the five teams.

After fans got hyped up with the big names in the team, a mixed bag of results with warm up matches with the Maori All Blacks and Pacific Nations Cup, there was high hopes and foreboding thoughts simultaneously.

The skidded anticipation of a great outing came to the fore especially after the thrashing at the hands of the Brave Blossoms at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in the first PNC match on July 27.

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Fullback Kini Murimurivalu scores the second try against Wales in the last pool D match. Photo: Daily Mail

As a fan the 62-year turnaround with the Maori All Blacks feat with a 27-10 score-line had inspired hope and aspirations of a team worthy of reaching the play offs at the RWC in Japan; a fortnight before the Japanese encounter.

The class and flair displayed by the Fijians at the national stadium on that cool afternoon with a dominant forward display and offloads interchange between the front eight and the backs charmed the fans.

Was this the year that we are going to have a better outing in the RWC?
It was deemed exceptional especially looking back at Fiji’s last international; their 21-14 upset of France in Paris last November moving up the world ranking to number nine.

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Flanker Peceli Yato gets tackled by the Aussies in one of the defining moments of the first match at the RWC. Photo: RNZ.co

The losses to tier one nations Australia in the opening match and Wales in the last encounter showed glimpses of greatness in the first two quarters then went downhill in the second half with the duo having the ascendency towards the end.

Fiji restored some respectability in their 45-10 hammering of the Georgians in their third pool match but had been thrown off their equilibrium in the match before with a 27-30 upset by Uruguay.

There has been allegations of smokescreens and counter smokescreens by the tier one nations coaches and administrators; the allegations of officiating to undermine the lower ranked teams; but at the end of the day if the Flying Fijians have succumbed to them in the past, we need better planning and resolve to overcome them.

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Australian hooker on the way to scoring one of his two tries through the rolling mauls. Photo: RNZ.co

Some of the weaknesses identified by the media and fans in the lead up to the tournament seemed like it had been swept under the carpet and ignored which was very displeasing when it kept on creeping up in the RWC matches.

The easy tries by the Wallabies and Uruguay by the rolling mauls and lapses of indecisiveness and aimless kicking cost the team lost metres and possession which would have been better utilized if the team was at peak fitness to keep running at the opposition.

The strengths in the team with the offloads and continual phases of attacks had been undermined by the lack of fitness in the second half and indecision by the backs at key moments in the match.

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Warming up hopes . . . Waisea Nayacalevu scores against the Maoris at the national stadium in Suva. Photo: Fiji Times

The set pieces with the scrums and lineouts improved a lot in the tournament and the coaching from John McKee has seen strides forward for the team in 2019.

For the Flying Fijians to prepare for the 2023 RWC, the Fiji Rugby Union needs to put on the brakes; analyse the performance in the Japanese tournament; make some hard calls; and set realistic goals to prepare with a timeline to have a team that is fit, conditioned and prepared by 2022 for a better outing.

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The Uruguayans stole Fiji’s thunder at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium with a 30-27 scoreline. Photo: Daily Mail

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Georgia, Japan, Pacific Nations Cup, Pool D, Super Rugby, Uruguay, Wallabies

Typhoon may hand Fiji a place

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Wales sing their national anthem before their win against Australia. Photo: BBC

The introduction of Super Typhoon Hagibis to the Rugby World Cup which threatens the last pool matches over the weekend would very likely favour the Flying Fijians.

A bonus point win over Wales tonight would see the Flying Fijians poised for a better possibility of gaining a quarterfinal berth if the match between Wales and Uruguay in Kumamoto on Sunday is abandoned.

 

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A NASA image of the Super Typhoon Hagibis hovering over the northern Marianas this morning. Photo: NASA

 

Fiji on seven points leapfrogs both Wales, nine, and Australia 11; to 12 points with a BP win tonight.

With the cancellation of the Wales, Uruguay match, the two teams will end with a 0-0 result with the four points on offer split two points apiece, which will very likely see the Red Dragons packing for an early flight back home to Cardiff; at 11 points.

The Wallabies has to defeat Georgia on Friday to secure the top spot for pool D which will ease their quarterfinal opponent as Les Bleus; alleviating the likelihood of facing the revamped Group C leaders, England.

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Flying Fijians getting ready to roll the Welsh tonight. Photo: World Rugby

Even if the Super Typhoon affected the Wallabies, Georgia match; the Aussies are through with the two points closing the pool stage with 13.

But if Fiji loses tonight, Wales will top the pool with 14 points and another five points on offer for the Uruguay match propelling the Welsh to the top of the pool.

Organisers have warned the storm could affect the final weekend of pool stages.
If the current forecast holds, the danger would appear to be lower for crunch games in the south-west (Ireland-Samoa on Saturday in Fukuoka and Wales-Uruguay on Sunday in Kumamoto).

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On location in Oita, the Flying Fijians finetune their preparations. Photo: World Rugby

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has given Super Typhoon Hagibis its highest “violent” classification and tipped it to clip south-eastern Japan, near Tokyo and Yokohama, this weekend.

The storm’s sustained winds had decreased slightly to 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour early this morning, making it the equivalent of a category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

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Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu tries to break the Red Dragons’ defence. Photo: World Rugby

Organisers said they had “robust contingency plans” and could change the venue of a fixture or the timing if bad weather looks set to affect the match.

“Such plans, if required, will only be actioned if the safety of teams, fans, and workforce can be guaranteed,” organisers said in a statement.

In the case of the England-France game, this would send Eddie Jones’s English side through as Pool C champions and a quarter-final meeting, likely against Australia.

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The 2007 Fijians celebrate the final pool match against the Welsh. Photo: World Rugby

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Focus on rwc, Pool D, Super Typhoon Hagibis, Wales

Setting precedents

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Flying Fijians outside centre Waisea Nayacalevu on the way to scoring a try against Georgia. Photo: World Rugby

If Pool D precedence is anything to go by Wales has the opportunity to knock Fiji out of the pool and the Rugby World Cup tomorrow night at the Oita Bank Dome.
Let’s take a look at the precedent set by the pool teams and the conclusion we can derive from them.
After a four day turnaround Fiji lost to Uruguay 27-30, with the South Americans first match of the tournament on Wednesday, September 25 at the Kamaishi Memorial Recovery Stadium.

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Welsh halfback Gareth Davies splits the Wallabies defence to score a try. Photo: World Rugby

Likewise Georgia after an eight day break defeated the same Uruguayans 33-7 who had a four-day turnaround which has highlighted the importance of a longer break for recuperation and rest before the next match.
Fiji after a one week break then defeated Georgia 45-10 who had to face the South Sea islanders on a four-day turnaround.
With the shorter break, it could be concluded that there is less recovery and rest for the next match which would spell disaster.

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Centres time; Inside centre Lepani Botia congratulates outside centre Waisea Nayacalevu. Photo: World Rugby

Now Fiji after a six-day turnaround faces Wales who had a 10-day break after defeating the Wallabies will therefore conclude as ritually enacted by the previous results, a win by the Six Nations champions.
Wales who is second currently on the standings with nine points will have the opportunity to leapfrog Australia who is top with 11 points; to 14 with a bonus points win.
With a close win, Wales will gain four to 13 points and still has Uruguay to play which with another win, against precedence after a four-day turnaround top Pool D.
If Wales follows the precedent and loses to Uruguay, then it will be nip and tuck with the Wallabies to top the pool and will have an easier passage in the quarterfinals with a possible candidate in France.
With second place, for both Wales and Australia, a frightful prospect with opponents England in the quarterfinals.
England who has been overhauled from the mediocre 2015 team by Australian Eddie Jones, look ominous and will trounce any team in the quarterfinals to progress.

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Flying Fijians loose forward Paceli Yato faces the Georgian forwards. Photo: World Rugby

Tbe only team from the pool that would jump at the opportunity and have a good chance to upset the British tank is the Fijians.
Give them a glimmer of hope to get a quarter final berth and they can smash England and progress to the semi final.
But first it has to defeat Wales tomorrow and if precedence is followed, Uruguay upset Wales on Sunday.
Fiji has an opportunity of a lifetime to defeat Wales, and maul the Six Nations champion badly to be easybeats for Uruguay.
Time to pray and cheer for Fiji.

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Flying Fijians doing the cibi before a Test Match. Photo: World Rugby

 

 

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Volavola dictates from the pocket

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Fiji’s left winger Semi Radradra loses an aerial battle against his Georgian counterpart. Photo: World Rugby

After four years of being groomed in the pocket of intense pressure, coach John McKee is beginning to see the fruits of nurturing and belief in fly-half Ben Volavola in the dismantling of the strong Georgians with a 45-10 scoreline yesterday in their third match of the Rugby World Cup.

Volavola’s varied his options with the boot; in relieving pressure, pinpoint cross kicking and angled grubbers; pops and wide angled passing to keep the Lelos guessing in front of the 26,000 packed Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka.

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Japanese children were awestruck by the enormity of the pre-match show. Photo: World Rugby

The Tailevu man and Fijian kickers, outlasted the Georgians by 218 metres, kicking a total 737 metres from 29 kicks and Volavola top scored with 10 points from five conversions.

Even though Volavola’s 13 metres gained moving forward was limited, he was more of a general dictating play with a total of 37 passes from the pocket, some of which were received 10-25 metres away resulted in clean breaks and tries from the outside backs.

Volavola’s general play calmed the nerves for the backline especially in the first half with the Lelos gaining a lot of steam from their hardworking bulky forwards pushing the Fijians back with resistance and rush defence.

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Outside centre Waisea Nayacalevu scores the first try in the nineteenth minute. Photo: World Rugby

Once the Georgian forwards were neutralized up front from Fiji’s keen eight, the backline started clicking in the last two quarters, running away with six tries.

The loss against the Uruguayans last week could be attributed to two main areas; the disorientation of the backline without Volavola; and the mainstay of the set-piece especially the scrums with tight-head prop Manasa Saulo not included in the starting lineup.

Adding spark to Volavola’s pivotal role was his diligent halves partner Frank Lomani who was fourth in total metres gained with 56 metres, behind left wing Semi Radradra who ran a total of 176 metres, right wing Josua Tuisova with 84, and outside centre Waisea Nayacalevu, 65.

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Georgia’s Godzilla, Mamuka Gorgodze, scores the lone try for the Lelos. Photo: World Rugby

Lomani’s all round play at the base of the scrum, rucks and mauls merited his cementing his place as the Flying Fijians number one halfback with 59 passes, two clean breaks and three defenders beaten resulting with one try to his tally.

Topping all of the attack stats was player of the match Radradra, whose 176 metres gained topped the tournament so far, coming with six clean breaks and 11 defenders beaten. His two tries equaled top points with Volavola at 10.

One of the highlights of the game was the nullifying of the Georgian driving mauls by the alert Fijians who continually assessed and regrouped to negate them. A match that saw no tries scored through mauls which were easily achieved by Fiji’s first RWC two opponents; Australia and Uruguay.

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The Flying Fijians and Georgia line up for the national anthems at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka. Photo: World Rugby

The forwards scored 100 percent in their six scrums and 92.9 percent in their 14 lineout throw-ins, missing one. The Fijians leveled the Georgians in the turnovers with six won in their own half and another six in the Georgian half with the Lelos winning nine and three respectively.

Fiji’s general stats improved remarkably against the Georgians with 55 percent
territory and 54 percent possession and stood tall in the attack division with 559 metres gained compared to 343 metres by the Lelos.

The seven tries were scored by Nayacalevu, 19 minutes; Lomani, 44; Tuisova, 49; Radradra, 60; Semi Kunatani, 67; Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 69; Radradra 75. Five conversions were kicked by Volavola.

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Flying Fijian inside centre Lepani Botia leaves the Georgian defenders in his wake. Photo: World Rugby

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Filed under 2019 Rugby World Cup, Fiji, Flying Fijians, Focus on rwc, Georgia, Japan, John McKee, Rugby World Cup

McKee IDs Georgia’s power

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Georgia’s Alexander Todua is brought down by Uruguay’s Manuel Ardao in their pool match on Sunday. Photo: World Rugby

Flying Fijians coach John McKee has identified the strength of the Georgians in their pool D match today at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium which is their only hope of regaining some semblance of dignity after the two losses in as many games at the Rugby World Cup.

“We know Georgia’s strengths and are prepared for a battle around the set pieces and the breakdown” McKee told Fiji Rugby Union.

McKee said ranking third in Pool D was important because it would allow direct qualification to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France which looked like a two way battle between Fiji and Georgia barring any upsets in the other pool matches.

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The Welsh fans painted the town red at the Tokyo Stadium as their team prepares for Australia on Sunday. Photo: World Rugby

“This match against Georgia was always going to be a key match in this pool and nothing has changed,” McKee said.

“There is plenty at stake in this game as a top three finish in our pool means automatic qualification for RWC 2023.”

Fiji lost 21-39 to Australia in their opening match on September 21 then was upset by Uruguay four days later in their second match 27-30 at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium last week.

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Kiwi referee Wayne Barnes was the man in the middles between Uruguay and Georgia on Sunday. Photo: World Rugb

The chances of a playoff berth for the Flying Fijians look dismal with a huge upset of Australia by Uruguay on Saturday or the Georgians next Friday to aid Fiji’s cause looks almost impossible.

Australia which is second on Pool D with six points looks to gain maximum points wins against Uruguay and Georgia to close out the preliminary matches at 17 points, second behind Wales, to face the top of pool C which is most likely England in the quarterfinals.

Wales which is most likely to finish top of Pool D with 19 points if it gains maximum points wins against Fiji and Uruguay, will play the second place finisher from Pool C which is most likely France or Argentina.

Former national star winger Joape Kuinikoro laid a pathway of a very unlikely option for the Flying Fijians to reach the playoffs by first beating Georgia today in their third match of the Rugby World Cup.

“We need these three results to proceed to play off stage,” Kuinikoro said on his
Facebook Page.

“One; for Fiji to defeat Georgia with at least four tries so we get five competition points; two, for Georgia to beat Australia by more than seven points and Australia not to score more than three tries so they do not get any competition point; three, for Fiji to beat Wales and make more than three tries to get five competition points. One of those results is out of our control. Possible?”

Kuinikoro scored a try on the right wing as a 21-year-old university student helped Fiji defeat the British Lions 25-21 at Bukhurst Park in Suva on August 15, 1977.

The other option which is an unlikely elimination of Wales which will see Fiji advancing to a quarterfinal clash against England on Sunday, October 20, at the Oita Stadium will depend on huge upsets.

Firstly, Fiji will have to win on maximum points against Georgia tonight for a five-point gain taking Fiji to seven points, then another upset win over Wales next Wednesday, October 9, at Oita Stadium to close out at 12 points in the pool stage.

Screenshot_2019-10-03 Pools - Rugby World Cup 2019|rugbyworldcup comAfter a 10-day turnaround Wales will stay on nine points if it loses to Fiji in their next match, and after a four-day break lose to Uruguay in their last match on October 13 which will keep them points static allowing Fiji to leapfrog them to second in Pool D.

Priority first is Fiji’s need to tackle their next opponents Georgia tonight.

Fiji’s lineup tonight against Georgia: 1. Campese Ma’afu, 2. Samuel Matavesi, 3. Manasa Saulo, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Semi Kunatani, 8. Peceli Yato, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Semi Radradra, 12. Levani Botia, 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Josua Tuisova, 15. Kini Murimurivalu
Reserves: 16. Ratu Veremalua Vugakoto, 17. Eroni Mawi, 18. Peni Ravai, 19. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20. Viliame Mata, 21. Nikola Matawalu, 22. Jale Vatubua, 23. Josh Matavesi.

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Flying Fijians and Los Teros lineup for the singing of the national anthems before kickoff at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium. Photo: World Rugby

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Suva in somber mood

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Uruguay players and fans celebrate after defeating Fiji 27-30 at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: World Rugby

The mood in the city of Suva this morning was somber with the grey clouds and rain confirming the feeling of failure and mourning after the Flying Fijians shock 27-30 loss to Uruguay at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium two days ago.

Gone were most of the blue flags which fluttered from over 50 percent of cars heading for work on Wednesday morning.

Most of the car windows wound up as if to shut out possible intruders who would shatter the feelings of doom and gloom after Fiji’s heroes came up short against a team; 10 ranks lower in the official World Rugby rung.

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Suva and Kamaishi 7500 kilometres apart.

The feelings of sadness and coldness hung around the majority of commuters heading for their work places, hoping for a better outcome for the rest of the day and week; with Fiji’s next match on Thursday.

The Flying Fijians had left Fiji’s shores early on in the month with so much fanfare and pride riding on the high hopes of a rugby mad nation that maybe, just maybe this would be the year that the best prepared team would bring glory to the nation.

After the start of the last quarter of that match on Wednesday afternoon with the scores at 17-27 with Fiji behind; where most of the workforce witnessed after they left their work places early to watch in their living rooms glued to the TV for the live telecast on Fiji One, the reality of the loss was beginning to unfold.

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Flying Fijians and Los Teros lineup for the singing of the national anthems before kickoff at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium. Photo: World Rugby

20 minutes left and still it seemed like all of Fiji offensives where formerly the players would easily score tries was found wanting, feelings of despair and panic started engulfing the fans.

The Uruguayans who had come prepared and focused on upsetting Fiji seemed to witness the ball and positive plays gravitate towards them; and the South Americans lapped up the attention and euphoria of victory with glee as the minutes ticked off with the points well in their favour.

Within 10 minutes as Fiji coach John McKee directed six changes; Campese Ma’afu replacing Eroni Mawi; Lepani Botia in for Filipo Nakosi; Vere Vogakoto subbing Mesulame Dolokoto; Tevita Cavubati coming in for Tevita Ratuva, Leeroy Atalifo for Manasa Saulo and Samuel Matavesi replacing Mosese Voka.

As the fresh troops arrived the hopes of the nation rose and fell as the enthusiasm and rush by the Uruguayans kept fending off the attacks by the Fijians.

A successful penalty by Uruguayan Berchesi Pisano in the 75th minute putting them eight points clear with the writing on the wall of imminent defeat unless Fiji scored twice to bridge the gulf; the panic started setting in for the players and the fans 7500 kilometres apart.

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Suva was shrouded in rain and clouds this morning. Photo: flickr

Mistakes kept creeping in for Fiji one after another which the Los Teros utilized to their advantage.

Individual brilliance by halfback Nikola Matawalu raised some hope after his try in the 66th and 81st minutes but it was too little too late as the final gong sounded for the end of the match with the Uruguayans remostrating around the park with weeping and celebration.

Most of the Fijian fans seem locked in with the feelings of submission to the obvious ultimate outcome of defeat currently but as very few taxis this morning displayed proudly with their fluttering flags adorning the sides of their vehicles, a little glimmer of hope.

There’s the extremes in the mood swings with a social media clip revealing a fully grown i Taukei man weeping openly refusing to be comforted sobbing uncontrollably after the match in his living room; while others go about their day oblivious to the rugby fans’ feelings of mourning.

The outcome of Sunday’s pool D matches with Uruguay and Georgia; as well as the seeded teams Wales and Australia will provide glimmers of hope or possibly seal Fiji’s fate for a quick return home in a fortnight.

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Fijian players were left behind as the Uruguayans charged ahead. Photo: World Rugby

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