Wales 38-23 Fiji: Wales fight back to secure victory against 14-man Fiji in Autumn Nations Series after Eroni Sau is sent off with Louis Rees-Zammit making late intervention
- Wales secured a 38-23 win against Fiji as they prevailed at Principality Stadium
- Fiji’s Eroni Sau was sent off in the 25th minute for a challenge on Jonny Williams
- Ryan Elias scored twice while Louis Rees-Zammit scored an impressive late try
Louis Rees-Lightning’s thunderbolt finish saved Wales from being rumbled by the Flying Fijians – an electric dash providing a belated late spark to win in Cardiff.
Rees-Zammit kicked off his left foot down his wing, gobbled up the Principality Stadium turf like Roadrunner – and before you could say “beep, beep” he had touched down.
It was the third try in a quick quartet for Wales, who were trailing 23-14 to 14-man Fiji before Ryan Elias, Alex Cuthbert, Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams scored in a late rally to rescue a muddling autumn series.
Louis Rees-Zammit scored a late try as Wales secured victory in their clash against Fiji
Christ Tshiunza celebrates at the full-time whistle after Wales secured victory against Fiji
Liam Williams of Wales is jubilant after he scored Wales’ sixth try of the game
Fiji saw left-winger Eroni Sau sent-off for a poor swinging-arm hit on Johnny Williams 25 minutes in, but threw themselves relentlessly at Wales nonetheless, with Waisea Nayacalevu scoring twice and Ben Volavola kicking the rest.
It was just as well for Wales this was not Fiji’s strongest side – no Semi Radradra, Levani Botia, Peceli Yato or Leone Nakarawa.
‘What a finish,’ captain Ellis Jenkins said of Rees-Zammit’s try.
‘He’s fast, isn’t he? When you’ve got guys with gas on the wing you see how good they are in space.
‘The challenge for us is to do that more often. His try was a big momentum shift for us.’
Eroni Sau of Fiji expresses his disappointment after being sent off in the 25th minute
Wales hooker Ryan Elias scored twice as he helped his side to prevail in their clash with Fiji
And Wayne Pivac added: ‘You can’t coach that express pace – I was really pleased with that piece of individual brilliance. That had everything you’d expect from a Fiji-Wales game. Fiji threw everything at us – going down a man they had everything to gain and nothing to lose.’
WALES: L Williams 8; Cuthbert 7, Tompkins 6, J Williams 5 (Halaholo, 51 7); Rees-Zammit 7.5; Biggar 5 (Sheedy, 64 6), Hardy 7 (T Williams, 51 6); Carré 6 (G Thomas, 48 6), Elias 7.5, John 5 (Lewis, 7 7), Rowlands 6 (Tshiunza, 70 5), Beard 7, Jenkins 7.5, Young 5 (S Davies, 58 6), Basham 6.
Not used: Roberts.
FIJI: Tuicuvu 8 (Tuimaba, 75 6); Tuisova 6, Nayacalevu 8, Botitu 7 (Naqalevu, 58 6), Sau 3; Volavola 7.5, Lomani 6.5 (Matawalu, 72 5); Ravai Kovekalou 6 (Mawi, 51 6), Matavesi 7.5 (Togiatama, 80 5), Doge 6 (Atalifo, 51 6), Ratuniyarawa 7 (Ratuva, 72 6), Mayanavanua, Tuisue, Kunavula 7 (Dakuwaqa, 50 6), Mata 7.
Referee: Nic Berry (Aus) 6
In an autumn where Wales have learned little, they struggled again for fluidity and sustained periods of quality.
A calf problem saw Josh Adams withdraw in the warm-up, so the experiment of playing him at centre was scrapped – Nick Tompkins coming in.
The whole Welsh setup looked messy, especially at the breakdown.
Fiji took advantage, scoring a classic try with Volavola feeding the steaming Bill Mata who sped between Dan Biggar and Adam Beard then popped an offload to Nayacalevu to score within seven minutes. Volavola converted and the Fijians were away.
Spluttering Wales relied on mauls to bail them out. Elias scored from one, which Biggar converted, before Volavola kicked a penalty.
Sau’s sending off was a shocker. Trying to whack the ball from Johnny Williams’ hands the Fijian wing belted him in the face. Referee Nic Berry wanted to show a yellow card, which would have been plain wrong, but TMO Stuart Terheege talked him into the correct decision.
Even when blind-side Albert Tuisue was next to go, his a yellow for killing a ruck when Wales attack the Fijian line, Wales could not get going.
Their attack was lateral, without punchy ball-carriers, as Fijians lined them up for rib-rearranging hits on the gainline.
Kieran Hardy’s individualism brought a try, darting off the back of a five-metre scrum when Fiji had one fewer in the back-row.
Wing Jos Tuisova, with legs that look like they have been formed by pouring and setting concrete, prowled around but was soon beaten by a lovely kick from Biggar to Rees-Zammit for a score right on half time.
But before that one and only delectable piece of attacking play in the first-half Rees-Zammit had batted a kick back in play without landing both feet on the field himself, so it was chalked off.
When Tuisue returned from the sin-bin after half-time his Fijians were ahead, after Volavola’s third penalty.
Williams overcomes challenges from Fiji in order to score a try at Principality Stadium
Rees-Zammitt prepares to score a try as Ben Volavola slides in during the Autumn Nations Series clash
The Principality Stadium day-trippers then turned their phone torches on, as if at a Manic Street Preachers concert, as Volavola’s next shot dropped wide.
If they were paying attention they might have seen Nayacalevu streak in sensationally for his second, finishing a move started in the Fijian 22 when Seta Tuicuvu tapped and ran amok after marking a kick – it was straight from the wonderful world of sevens, the sport they gloriously dominate.
Volavola’s conversion pushed Fiji nine clear. To dig themselves out of an almighty hole Wales went to their driving lineout again, taking advantage of another yellow card to prop Eroni Mawi, Elias scoring his second after an hour – but Biggar’s conversion hit the post.
Cuthbert then dived in for his first Welsh try since 2017, Sheedy’s kick sliding by.
What Wales needed was a thunderbolt finish – so Rees-Zammit’s cracker, before Williams wandered in too, came just in time.
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