Fiji ended their Rugby World Cup campaign on a high with a 47-15 win over 14-man Uruguay in Milton Keynes on Tuesday.
John McKee’s men were determined to end the tournament on a positive note after coming in with such high hopes, and did so by scoring seven tries, including two penalty tries stemming from their dominant scrum.
Fiji were far from perfect and never really cut Uruguay open with ease, but this was a much-needed win after tough losses to England, Australia and Wales – wrapped up by Nemani Nadolo scoring their seventh try to take his tally to 17 points.
Uruguay though stole the show – mainly through their first World Cup tries in 12 years by Carlos Arboleya and Agustin Ormaechea.
The night ended on a sour note though when the influential Ormaechea was shown a red card by referee JP Doyle, after picking up his second yellow.
By doing so he made history, joining Fiji’s Marika Vunibaka from 1999 in an exclusive club of players to score and receive a red card in a World Cup match.
Everything else about Wednesday’s game was overwhelmingly positive.
We would never have expected Uruguay to still be within this game at half-time before the tournament started, but the 20th and final side to qualify for the World Cup backed up the outstanding performances from Tier Two nations in this World Cup with another impressive outing.
To top it off, a record 30,048 crowd packed into Stadium MK – another outstanding turnout.
Fiji started fast – Lepani Botia looking as though he’d scored in the corner only for the replays from the TMO to show that he’d knocked on.
However, Ormaechea’s no-arms tackle to dislodge the ball meant that the referee awarded the penalty try, with Nadolo converting.
Nemia Kenatale was the next man to score, the scrum-half in for Niko Matawalu diving over in the corner as Fiji led 12-0 after ten minutes.
Alejo Duran’s penalty put Uruguay on the board and all of a sudden los Teros had the wind in their sails.
Santiago Gibernau’s touchline break put them behind the Fijian defence to set up an attack where Arboleya hit a great line into gaping hole, crashing over by the posts.
Such were the happy scenes as the Uruguayan players mobbed their hooker, you’d have thought they had won the World Cup. It was their first World Cup try since 2003. 12-0 was now 12-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Fiji’s scrum however was utterly dominant, with Alejo Corral struggling up against Leroy Atalifo and the pressure eventually forcing referee JP Doyle to award a second penalty try with Uruguay motoring backwards near their own line.
Leone Nakarawa made sure Fiji had their try bonus point before the break with a deserved score after his good tournament, leaving Fiji ahead 26-10 at half-time.
Uruguay’s spirit though was outstanding. As Fiji’s attack plodded from left to right Sunia Koto was caught out by a loose pass and the South Americans hacked forward, outnumbering Fiji to the ball before Ormaechea scurried around the side of the ruck to send his coach’s box into euphoria.
Duran couldn’t convert, his effort coming back off the crossbar, but at 26-15 Uruguay were right in the contest.
Tevita Cavubati’s try off the bench stopped any comeback in its tracks, a stray elbow from Rodrigo Silva after he scored sparking off the first of two scraps between both sides but he escaped a punishment.
The same couldn’t be said after Kini Murimurivalu’s try – taking Fiji to six – when Campese Ma’afu and Ormaechea scrapped off the ball. Both were yellow carded by the referee, with Ormaechea’s second yellow meaning he was sent off.
Nadolo still had time to dive over, bringing up seven tries, but the 47-15 scoreline didn’t tell the true story – how Uruguay had battled away and won over the crowd, making history with their two tries.
They will go into Saturday’s game against England full of confidence.
Man of the Match: Credit must go to Fiji’s scrum, but while he never got on the scoresheet Lepani Botia was a massive presence on attack with a number of carries and impressive offloads.
Moment of the Match: The scenes were quite incredible when Carlos Arboleya crashed over, as he was mobbed by the Uruguayan replacements and made history.
Villain of the Match: The off-the-ball niggle at the end was pretty unnecessary from both sides.
Tries: Penalty Try 2, Kentale, Nakarawa, Cavubati,
Cons: Nadolo 6
Yellow Card: Ma’afu
Tries: Arboleya, Ormaechea
Red Card: Ormaechea
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Lepani Botia, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Leroy Atalifo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Taniela Koroi, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Timoci Nagusa,
Uruguay: 15 Gaston Mieres, 14 Santiago Gibernau, 13 Joaquin Prada, 12 Andres Vilaseca, 11 Rodrigo Silva, 10 Alejo Duran, 9 Agustin Ormaechea, 8 Alejandro Nieto, 7 Matias Beer, 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara, 5 Jorge Zerbino, 4 Santiago Vilaseca (c), 3 Mario Sagario, 2 Carlos Arboleya, 1 Alejo Corral.
Replacements: 16 German Kessler, 17 Oscar Duran, 18 Mateo Sanguinetti, 19 Mathias Palomeque, 20 Franco Lamanna, 21 Juan De Freitas, 22 Jeronimo Etcheverry, 23 Francisco Bulanti.
Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (SARU), Leighton Hodges (WRU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)
- Planet Rugby