OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Fiji boosted its flagging Rugby World Cup campaign with seven tries and scintillating attacking rugby in a 45-10 win against Georgia on Thursday.
The heavy rain did not affect Fiji’s running game, which proved far too strong for a Georgia lineup hoping to seal third place in Pool D with a win, which would have ensured automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
Instead, Fiji has moved ahead of Georgia and provisionally over Australia into second place.
Fiji is still to face group leader Wales and Georgia is up against two-time champion Australia, which has played one less game than Fiji.
As the rain poured down at Hanazono Rugby Stadium on the outskirts of Osaka, Fiji failed initially to capitalize on a bright start.
But it was a sign of things to come when Waisea Nayacalevu’s spectacular first try put Fiji ahead midway through a rain-soaked first half where Georgia Soso Matiashvili missed one penalty goal and slotted over another to make it 7-3 at the break.
Then the tries came thick and fast _ one from Georgia’s veteran flanker Mamuka Gorgodze, and then six from the flying Fijians who thrilled the crowd with one-handed passes and some spectacular running.
Left wing Semi Radradra scored two tries, with the other four coming from scrumhalf Frank Lomani, right winger Josua Tuisova, flanker Semi Kunatani and replacement lock Api Ratuniyarawa.
With Fiji’s forwards as slick as the backs, Georgia was simply overwhelmed.
In the first half the scrums were evenly contested, with Georgia getting the upper hand at times.
Following a high Fiji tackle in the 15th minute, Matiashvili took the penalty goal from about 30 meters out wide on the right. The flag went up, then down, and three Georgia points were rubbed off the scoreboard.
Minutes later, a moment of typical Fiji improvisation caught Georgia cold as Radradra did well to stop flyhalf Ben Volavola’s grubber kick going out. He showed good hands to feed the ball quickly and accurately inside to the surging Nayacalevu, who sprinted clear.
Volavola clipped over the first of his five conversions and was not needed for penalty goals, given the rampant mood Fiji was in after the sheer disappointment of losing its second group game to Uruguay in one of the tournament’s big upsets.
This was far more like the Fiji which led Australia at halftime, before losing that one, too.
Nayacalevu should have had a second try in the first half after a superb passing move cut Georgia open, but he fumbled midfield partner Levani Botia’s pass inside and admonished himself after tumbling face-first into the wet turf.
Georgia then launched a brilliant attack from deep in its own half, carving Fiji open at speed with some great handling.
After left wing Alexander Todua and scrumhalf Vasil Lobzhanidze were held up, lock Konstantine Mikautadze emerged through a scrum but knocked on with the try-line in sight.
Todua had been high tackled near the neck area, however, and Matiashvil kicked the penalty goal to make it 7-3.
The sides traded tries early in the second half, and then it was time for the crowd to sit back and enjoy 30 minutes of the Fiji show.
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