By AP sports reporters
Fiji defeated Australia 22-15 for the first time in 69 years and sent a jolt of joy rippling through the Pacific and Rugby World Cup world today.
The Fijians had to win to stay in the hunt for their first quarterfinal in 16 years, and lived to fight on while putting the heat back on Wales and Australia, who meet next Monday NZT. One of the trio won’t make it out of Pool C.
Famed for being rugby’s greatest ad-libbers, Fiji put the razzle-dazzle away and won in a very un-Fijian traditional way: Breakdown domination, brick-wall defense, and relentless commitment for 80 minutes.
The Fijians were disciplined, composed and clinical in a heavily defensive game of few chances. Flanker Levani Botia and inside back Josua Tuisova led them with three turnovers each.
“I’m emotionally drained,” said Simon Raiwalui, Fiji’s coach only since February. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
This result was not on the scale of Japan beating South Africa in 2015 or that much of an upset. This result was coming. Fiji crushed the Pacific Nations Cup. They pushed France close and toppled England at Twickenham in the warmups.
Fiji came to the Rugby World Cup ranked higher than pool rivals Australia and Wales, and would have beaten Wales last weekend with even an ounce of luck.
“I told the boys, today is our final,” captain Waisea Nayacalevu said. “Today will determine whether we want to go up to the quarters, so the mindset was do or die, do our best, fight to the end and the result will take care of itself.”
Fiji are in Pool C with Wales, Australia. Georgia and Portugal. The last time the Flying Fijians advanced to the quarter final stage of a Rugby World Cup was in 2007 after defeating Wales at the pool stages.
Congratulations Fiji 🇫🇯