Wales are a huge step closer to the World Cup quarterfinals after beating Fiji 23-13 in a breathless Pool A clash at Millennium Stadium today.
Warren Gatland’s team saw tries from scrum-half Gareth Davies and hooker Scott Baldwin, with 13 points from fly-half Dan Biggar’s boot, but missed a bonus point.
But Fiji struck back after the break with Vereniki Goneva rounding off a stunning 60-yard move.
Fiji paid for small mistakes with Ben Volavola missing two easy penalties
The result means Wales will reach the quarterfinals if Australia beat England at Twickenham on Saturday.
However, if Stuart Lancaster’s team beat the Wallabies, then Wales will probably need to beat Australia on October 10.
England’s final game later that evening is against Pool A minnows Uruguay and a bonus-point win is almost a formality for the hosts in Manchester.
If England finish on the same number of points as Gatland’s team, Wales will go through thanks to their 28-25 win at Twickenham unless Australia also finish on the same number of points.
If Wales had scored four tries and won a bonus point, it would have meant England needing to gain a winning bonus point against the Wallabies.
But in truth, Wales never looked like being in that position, and were made to work hard for the win. Fiji came at them strongly after the interval as the home team lost a little of the composure they had shown in the first half.
Fiji resisted Wales’ rapid start for seven minutes before Scarlets scrum-half Davies threw an outrageous dummy and touched down between the posts.
But with their scrum creaking in the face of a ferocious Fijian onslaught, Sam Warburton’s men struggled to subdue the Pacific Islanders.
They stood up well to Wales’ driving line-out, and broke dangerously from their own half with Crusaders-bound fly-half Volavola and wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma embarrassing defenders with their elusive running.
But Wales established some control before the interval when the outstanding Biggar was involved twice in a move which ended with hooker Baldwin squeezing over for Wales’ second try
Fiji’s resistance turned into downright aggression after the break as Wales’ kicking game lost its accuracy and the visitors ran at Wales with relish.
And when Goneva’s sublime try was converted by Volavola, Wales’ lead was down to four points and they were showing the effects of just four days’ rest after their win over England.
Biggar restored order with two penalties to take his tournament tally to 36 points before limping off with cramp.
But despite Gareth Davies and Alex Cuthbert closely missing more tries, Wales were happy with the win.
Also today France overcame a stern test from Canada to make it three wins from three in Pool D with a 41-18 victory.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s side led 24-12 at the break thanks to tries from Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado and Rabah Slimani.
Scores from DTH van der Merwe and Aaron Carpenter kept the Canucks in touch.
But second-half tries from Pascal Pape and debutant Remy Grosso gave France a bonus-point win.
In truth, the scoreline was not a fair reflection on how Canada played.
The North Americans dominated the opening stages of the second half but France, led by a man-of-the-match display from Frederic Michalak, go into next week’s huge match against Ireland in good form.