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Wales hold off surging Fiji in thriller at World Cup


Wales have fended off a frenzied Fijian assault to emerge 32-26 victors in their opening World Cup Pool C clash in Bordeaux, giving themselves every chance of advancing to the quarter-finals.

Victory in the raucous, freewheeling contest offers a beleaguered Welsh squad redemption after losing six of eight internationals in 2023.

Fast-improving Fiji's hopes of advancing from a group also including Australia, Portugal and Georgia already look dented.

Victory was almost stolen at the end by the Pacific islanders who were rallying from an 18-point deficit and could have completed an unlikely comeback before Fiji's star centre Semi Radradra, of all players, knocked on with the tryline in sight.

Both teams scored four tries in a game full of line breaks, exciting running and bruising clashes that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, especially at the end as Fiji fought back from 32-14 down.

"We always seem to make it hard for ourselves, but what we make up with effort and courage and determination is just huge for this team," five-eighth Dan Biggar said.

Josh Adams, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit and Elliot Dee crossed over for Wales with Biggar adding two penalties and three conversions.

Waisea Nayacalevu, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge were Fiji's try scorers.

This was always set to be a tense and emotional clash, pitting together two teams who have now met at five World Cups in a row and both punch above their weight given their resources.

It was also a clash of styles. Wales attempted to create space for runners with drilled pattern play and long passes, while Fiji simply looked to line up isolated defenders before side-stepping or smashing them.

The Pacific islanders' coach Simon Raiwalui had urged his side before the game to "play like Fijians". They took him at his word.

Outside centre Nayacalevu, England's tormentor-in-chief in Fiji's memorable August 26 win at Twickenham, struck for the fourth game in a row with frightening ease, blasting through an attempted Biggar tackle and running clear.

His centre partner Radradra moments later made a crunching break from a Nayacalevu offload, before cutting inside and offloading for flanker Tagitagivalu to score.

But Wales would not wilt under the pressure.

Adams exemplified their resilience with a thundering hit on Fiji's winger Selesitino Ravutaumada in the 50th minute that left him flat on the deck and the Welsh bench roaring in defiance.

With the score poised at 32-26 in favour of the Welsh and the clock in the red, Fiji launched waves of rolling attacks as they sought victory.

But Radrada's spill out wide in the clammy late night heat signalled it was not to be, with Fiji left ruing missed opportunities despite all their scintillating play.

The Wallabies are next up for Fiji, with the teams due to meet at Saint-Etienne's Stade Geoffroy-Guichard at 1.45am on September 18 (AEST), while Wales take on Portugal the previous day.