A suspicious looking turnover from Richie Arnold helped get the Wallabies going in Saint-Étienne
Plenty was said about the refereeing in Fiji’s opening-round defeat to Wales and more questions were being asked after a controversial opening try for Australia winger Mark Nawaqanitawase.
There was plenty of big billing for this mega Pool C clash with Fiji in a virtually do-or-die situation in the group having lost to Wales, albeit with two bonus points. And it lived up to the hype in the early stages, with neither side giving an inch and plenty of belting big hits flying in on either side.
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Fiji led 9-3 midway through the first half with the only points coming off the tee in Saint-Étienne. Then, Fiji carried the ball into contact and appeared to knock the ball on, or at least that was the view of on-field Irish referee Andrew Brace.
Nic White then claimed the possession and smashed a superb 50:22 downfield. Wing Nawaqanitawase stormed up to collect the ball and caught Fiji napping by taking a quick throw to inside centre Samu Kerevi who stormed towards the line before hurling an offload infield for Nawaqanitawase to collect and score unchallenged.
Ben Donaldson was unable to add the extras with the try making it a one-point game at that stage. However, replays appeared to show towering second-row Richie Arnold potentially playing the ball with his hands while on the floor in the ruck that preceded White’s 50:22. On top of that, there was doubt over whether the quick lineout went the full five metres.
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You could hear the views of the Fiji players in the crowd and some of the players at the time tried to raise the incident with Brace. In the moments after the try had been scored Brace appeared to be heard saying he was satisfied that it was only a knock-on at the breakdown.
The decision was met with disapproval on social media. Samoa fly-half Lima Sopoaga said: “Just gonna ignore playing the ball on the ground.”
England World Cup winner Kyran Bracken added: “Why do @fijirugby get decisions that are clear and obvious against them? Seriously?”