2 Oct 2015

Winless Fiji rue tough Cup schedule

11:35 am on 2 October 2015

Handed the toughest possible Rugby World Cup mission Fiji ultimately came up short but Wales will testify to the impact the Pacific Islanders had on the tournament.

Wales v Fiji - Rugby World Cup - Vereniki Goneva of Fiji scores a try.

Wales v Fiji - Rugby World Cup - Vereniki Goneva of Fiji scores a try. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fiji headed into their final Pool A game winless and left ruing a punishing schedule in which they have had to play three of the world's top six teams in 13 days.

For a time, midway through the second half of this morning's 23-13 loss to Wales, after Fiji had scored arguably the try of the tournament when Verenika Goneva finished off a flowing 60-metre move to close to within four points, the hosts were rocking like a punch-drunk heavyweight.

Wales regrouped to win but Fiji, just as they did against England and Australia in other Pool A games, won many new fans with their explosive running rugby that regularly punched holes in the best defences.

Had first-five Ben Volavola's kicking been more accurate, the fingernails of the vast majority of the 71,000 crowd rooting for Wales would have disappeared before the final whistle.

Just days after their Herculean effort to beat England, Welsh players were bent double gulping in air during breaks in play, so tough was it to stop the likes of Fiji's forwards Leone Nakawara and Tevita Cavubati.

Fiji made 18 offloads to Wales's nine, taking their total to a tournament leading 34, they broke Welsh tackles 27 times as Warren Gatland's players were sometimes reduced to grabbing shirts.

They carried the ball a whopping 506 metres.

Yet the only statistic that matters is that they have zero points from three games in the so-called group of death.

"We felt that we were sneaking into the game in the second half but we were not clinical enough and that cost us the game," Fiji's captain Akapusi Qera said after the match.

With Uruguay still to come, Fiji should go home with a victory, but that will be scant reward for coach John McKee.

"It's very frustrating to be at this point with no points on the table," he said.

"We knew when we came here what a difficult pool we were in but we still had high expectations and we worked really, really hard with a talented group of players.

"But to play England, Australia and Wales in 13 days is a very tough ask for any team."

Wales skipper Sam Warburton simply looked relieved as he addressed the media.

"That was one of the tougher Test matches I've played in," he said.

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.