Fiji bounce back from that Uruguay defeat with an impressive victory over Georgia in Osaka
Played – 4
Georgia wins – 1
Fiji wins – 3
Did You Know?
- Merab Sharikadze became Georgia’s third captain at this World Cup following Jaba Bregvadze (v Uruguay) and Mikheil Nariashvili (v Wales). Georgia have never named more than two different captains at a previous World Cup.
- Semi Radradra became the first player at this World Cup to produce three try assists in a single match.
In a nutshell
These two sides are known for having a contrast in styles – Fiji’s flair v Georgia’s grit, all-out attack v set-piece solidity. The two teams also had to deal with a contrast in weather at Osaka’s picturesque Hanazono Stadium, with rain and sunshine sporadically swapping positions in the sky throughout the 80 minutes.
As it transpired, though, the Georgian scrum was not able to dominate in the manner it is renowned for. The work Fiji have been doing with Alan Muir over recent years paid dividends here as they not only got parity at the set-piece but were often on top, winning penalties against the head on a couple of occasions.
Fiji ran in seven tries in all and could have had more but for some handling errors, making that Uruguay defeat even harder to comprehend, and showed Wales they will have to be on their mettle to contain the islanders next Wednesday.
Georgia looked like they would take the lead after quarter of an hour when Soso Matiashvili lined up a penalty shot at goal. While Matthew Carley raised his flag, Jaco Peyper – the other assistant referee – did not, so Paul Williams went to the TMO to confirm it had missed the posts.
Instead the first points of the game went to Fiji, when Waisea Nayacaleveu scored a try midway through the half. It started with a grubber kick from Ben Volavola, which was picked up by Semi Radradra as Georgia wing Giorgi Kveseladze was caught worrying about the threat of the wing rather than diving on the ball. Radradra fed the ball to Nayacaleveu on the inside and the centre had a clear run-in. Volavola, the man who had started it all, added the conversion.
Georgia did get on the board before half-time, Matiashvili slotting a penalty after a length-of-the-field attack. Yes, a length-of-the-field attack!
There was a point when it appeared the two teams had swapped each other’s characteristics. Fiji won a scrum penalty and Georgia launched a break from their own 22, some sharp passes (followed by a few pick-and-goes) taking them up to the line and providing the penalty opportunity.
There were a few eyebrows raised early in the second half when Fiji opted for a scrum from a penalty – but it paid off. With a solid platform they spread the ball wide, Kini Murimurivalu released Radradra with a lovely back-handed offload and he beat several players down the wing before once again providing the try assist with a six-metre, one-handed pass inside to Frank Lomani.
Radradra made it a hat-trick of assists a few minutes later when Fiji launched a set play from a lineout. Peceli Yato delivered quick ball off the top for Lomani and the passes flowed between Botia, Volavola, Radradra and finally Josua Tuisova, who powered over.
Georgia hit back quickly though. Kveseladze won the restart, Otari Giorgadze made ground and Mamuka Gorgodze drove over low following a series of surges by the forwards.
Yet the strength of the Fijian back-line came to the fore again when the ball was spread wide from another scrum; Tuisova cut a line off his wing to return the favour and be the provider for Radradra to run in the bonus-point try from 40 metres.
It then became very ugly for Georgia as Fiji ran in another three tries in the last 20 minutes. First Semi Kunatani went over from close range after a Botia pass, then Api Ratuniyarawa was the beneficiary of a Lomani break to run in under the posts and Radradra then showed his athleticism by finishing another try in the corner.
When Fiji turn on the style like this, it makes you wonder what might have been had things played out differently at RWC 2019. Regardless, they will test Wales in Oita next week.
This is a one-horse race. Three assists, two tries, numerous other involvements… Semi Radradra runs away with the Man of the Match award, just as he ran away from Georgian defenders so often on the pitch. He seems to find space where there is none and get his hands free to offload when he has no right to. A huge talent and a joy to watch – the 20,000-plus crowd here certainly relished seeing him with ball in hand.
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Fiji coach John McKee: “The scrum doesn’t just happen in a week or a month. We’ve been working on it for a long time. That work has gone in over four or five years and it has got us to where we are today, where our scrum can match anyone in the world. That’s a real credit to the players for the work they’re doing and our scrum coach Alan Muir.
“The Uruguay defeat hurt us. Today they just wanted to express themselves as rugby players and it’s really pleasing that we managed to do that.”
Georgia coach Milton Haig: “The first half was pretty close, but once you let Fiji get behind you and put a couple of passes together it’s very difficult to defend. As soon as they make a line break, they get very excited about support play and having someone there and it’s a little like sevens. Once they get behind and get their tails up, they’re the best in the world at throwing the ball around and scoring tries.
“We defended well and scrambled well in the first half, but our energy and execution wasn’t there in the last 30 minutes.”
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Giorgi Kveseladze, David Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze (captain, Lasha Malaguradze 43-55), Alexander Todua (Miriani Modebadze 72); Lasha Khmaladze, Vasil Lobzhanidze (Gela Aprasidze 65); Mikheil Nariashvili (Guram Gogichashvili 58), Shalva Mamukashvili (Jaba Bregvadze 58), Beka Gigashvili (Levan Chilachava 65-78), Giorgi Nemsadze, Konstantine Mikautadze (Beka Saginadze 53), Giorgi Tkhilaishvili (Otari Giorgadze 53), Mamuka Gorgodze, Beka Gorgadze.
Try: Gorgodze 53. Con: Matiashvili. Pen: Matiashvili.
Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu (Josh Matavesi 72); Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu (Jale Vatubua 70), Lepani Botia, Semi Radradra; Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani (Nikola Matawalu 75); Campese Ma’afu (Peni Ravai 55), Samuel Matavesi, Manasa Saulo (Lee Roy Atalifo 75), Tevita Cavubati (Api Ratuniyarawa 66), Leone Nakarawa, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), Semi Kunatani, Peceli Yato (Viliame Mata 66).
Tries: Nayacalevu 20, Lomani 45, Tuisova 50, Radradra 61, 76, Kunatani 68, Ratuniyarawa 70. Cons: Volavola 5.
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