Fiji 17-12 Georgia: Davit Niniashvili excels as Fiji virtually secure their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with Eddie Jones’ Australia left on the brink of elimination
- Davit Niniashvili helped Fiji to secure a 17-12 victory against Georgia
- Fiji are virtually through to the quarter-finals with Australia set to miss out
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
Fiji virtually sealed their spot in the World Cup quarter-finals, coming from behind to beat Georgia 17-12 in Bordeaux to heap more misery on former England head coach Eddie Jones.
The Pacific Islanders’ success means Jones’ Australia are now close to certain to becoming the first Wallaby team to exit at the tournament’s pool stages.
Australia can still mathematically qualify, but Fiji are now favourites to reach the last eight from Pool C along with Wales. Simon Raiwalui’s side defied a shocking start to win and are now England’s most likely quarter-final opponents. Georgia were outstanding and, had they not been beset by injuries and not passed forward on the half-time whistle, this could well have been a different story.
In Davit Niniashvili, Georgia had a world-class individual performer, but it was the strength of their collective which stood out as much as any one player.
The Lelos hit hard. Their tackling was brutal. In the end, cruelly, it was not enough.
This Pool C clash between two hugely ambitious rugby nations promised much and boy, did it deliver. The men from Eastern Europe nearly claimed another famous victory.
Davit Niniashvili was hugely impressive as Fiji secured a 17-12 victory against Georgia
Fiji’s victory means that Eddie Jones’ Australia are close to being knocked out of the World Cup
Tries: Nayacalevu 51, Habosi 68
Cons: Lomani 52, 69
Pen: Lomani 65
Pens: Matkava 5, 80, Niniashvili 19,31
Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)
Star man: Davit Niniashvili (Georgia)
Levan Maisashvili’s men beat both Italy and Wales in 2022 and came oh so close to another memorable success. Vinaya Habosi’s second half try was the final nail in their coffin.
Despite defeat, this was another game which showed Georgia’s progress. Their start to the World Cup – which included defeat by Australia and a draw with Portugal – was disappointing.
But they were heroic to a man against the giant Fijians. It was an encounter which again showed just why World Rugby must support the countries looking to trouble the established elite.
Fiji have only ever reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup twice before, in 1987 and 2007.
They arrived in Bordeaux – where they were narrowly and controversially beaten by Wales on the opening weekend – with a knock-out spot in France in their hands and everything to play for.
What a time it was then for them to produce a truly awful start.
The Pacific Islanders were shocking in the first 40, their line-out a dog’s dinner of a mess. There were errors galore from those wearing white.
Northampton hooker Sam Matavesi’s first-half set-piece throws constantly went awry.
Fiji’s win means that they have now virtually secured their place in the quarter-finals
The Georgia players show their frustration following their defeat in the clash with Fiji
Teti Tela missed touch. Josua Tuisova spilled the ball. Georgia capitalised.
They looked certain to score almost straight away when the supreme Niniashvili raced clear and tried to pass to Akaki Tabutsadze. How the ball didn’t go to hand remains a mystery.
Niniashvili was outstanding. He broke away when Fiji failed to claim a high ball. The Lyon man kicked two monster penalties from range to add to Luka Matkava’s opener.
It was ironic Georgia’s danger came from their back division when they are known best for their formidable forward power. The scrum was the only area Fiji had any joy.
After 12 minutes, Georgia had made just two tackles as they dominated the ball. Fiji, by contrast, had made 43. It is not in Fiji coach Raiwalui’s nature to be hopping mad with anger.
But he must have been hugely frustrated by his team’s error count.
Georgia No 10 Matkava passed inside when there were numbers out left, wasting a try-scoring opportunity. The Lelos also lost forwards Tengizi Zamtaradze and Lasha Jaiani to early injuries.
But in their absence, Georgia were magnificent. Their red wall of defence tackled everything that moved in white. Fiji No 9 Simione Kuruvoli missed a penalty chance.
It was end-to-end, often mad-cap stuff. But hugely, hugely entertaining.
Captain Waisea Nayacalevu scored acrobatically as Fiji managed to secure victory
Matkava put in a heroic tackle on giant Fiji prop Luke Tagi. Georgia’s defence is guided by England’s 2003 World Cup winner Joe Worsley who knows a thing or two about tackling.
Worsley would have been jumping for joy at his team’s backs-to-the-wall display. Georgia’s defence held out when Fiji tapped and went from five metres out.
And Niniashvili’s boot put them 9-0 up, his second penalty coming after full-back Miriani Modebadze had won a shot at goal at the breakdown.
It could have been even better for Georgia. Matkava put a drop goal effort narrowly wide.
Then, just before the break, Niniashvili showed he can defend as well as attack by scything down Fiji full-back Ilaisa Droasese. Georgia broke away through their outstanding wing.
Tabutsadze went over, but referee Karl Dickson ruled the try out for a forward pass.
It felt like it was a big moment. Georgia really should have scored.
Fiji’s start to the second half was as bad as their first, Semi Radradra receiving a yellow card for a deliberate knock on. Another spilled ball from a kick then gave Georgia an attacking scrum.
Fiji finally kicked into a gear even with Radradra missing. Captain Waisea Nayacalevu scored acrobatically in the corner under pressure from Tabutsadze.
Dickson checked the score but it was a fine finish from the centre given he was so close to having a foot in touch. Replacement scrum-half Frank Lomani converted from wide out to narrow Fiji’s deficit to two. Lomani then had a chance to give his team the lead, but he missed an easy three-point effort. At the hour mark, nerves started to take hold with only two points in it.
A kicking battle broke out. Niniashvili, still just 21, attempted to galvanise his team for one last push as the players took a drinks break. Crucially, Georgia started to give away penalties.
It was the worst possible moment for them to do so.
When Lomani stepped up to try and benefit in the 65 minute, his strike was awful. It only just got above crossbar height, but over it went. Lomani’s scud missile of an effort was still worth three.
Then came the moment that broke Georgian hearts. It came from nowhere, really.
Habosi sidestepped his way over and although Georgia never went away, their physical efforts begun to take a toll. Those in red tired badly but their effort was never in question.
Niniashvili limped from the field late on and yet still Georgia didn’t go away.
Matkava kicked a late penalty to ensure a losing bonus point and Georgia went for broke in the final play with some brilliant attack, but Fiji did just enough despite losing Tuisova to a yellow as Droasese kicked the ball dead.
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