Rugby World Cup: Fijian heartbreak as upset win over Wales slips through fingers at Bordeaux

Centre Semi Radradra has dropped the ball with the tryline wide open in the dying seconds, as Fiji suffered a heartbreaking 32-26 defeat to Wales in a pulsating World Cup clash at Bordeaux.

Trailling 32-14 with 10 minutes remaining, the Pacific Islanders took advantage of a yellow card to Welsh prop Corey Domachowski to mount a ferocious comeback that threatened another chapter in their giantkilling history at the tournament.

Tries to winger Josua Tuisova and prop Mesake Doge brought them to within six points with seconds left on the clock - time enough for one more assault.

Semi Radradra loses the ball against Wales.
Semi Radradra loses the ball against Wales. Photo credit: Getty Images

After 12 phases near the Wales line, Fiji moved the ball left across the field, where a looping pass fell just in front of Radradra with a clear run to the corner - but he could not gather the ball cleanly and fumbled it into the turf, as the final whistle sounded. 

"Tough one, tough one," assessed captain Waisea Nayacalevu. "We're all disappointed, we all put in our maximum effort there.

"That last pass, man... it's quite hard for us. We've got to learn from that and move on to next week.

"Our bond as a team brings us together in tough moments to keep fighting until the end."

The Fijians had previously toppled Wales 38-34 at the 2007 World Cup, also in France, when they progressed to the quarter-finals. More recently, they shocked England in their final pre-tournament hitout at Twickenham, sparking hopes they were ready for another deep run at this event.

Victory in the raucous, freewheeling contest offers a beleaguered Welsh squad redemption, after losing six of eight internationals in 2023, while Fiji's hopes of progressing already look dented for all their recent progress.

Both teams scored four tries in a game full of linebreaks, exciting running and bruising clashes that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, especially at the end, as Fiji fought back.

Josh Adams, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit and Elliot Dee crossed over for Wales, with Dan Biggar adding two penalties and three conversions, while Waisea Nayacalevu, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge were Fiji's tryscorers.

This was always set to be a tense and emotional clash between two teams who have met at five World Cups in a row, who both punch above their weight given their resources and, above all, who are desperate to progress from the group at the other's expense.

It was also a clash of styles. Wales attempted to create space for runners with drilled pattern play and long passes, while Fiji simply tried to line up isolated defenders all night, before side-stepping or smashing them.

Both sides' centre pairings were prominent, as the Fijian duo of Radradra and Waisea Nayacalevu punched holes, while Wales' Nick Tompkins and George North hit back with direct running lines, as the two sides traded first-half tries.

Wales pulled away in the second half through scores from Rees-Zammit and replacement hooker Dee, and had appeared to wrest control of the clash, before the Fiji comeback sent the stadium into delirium.

Louis Rees-Zammit scores a try against Wales.
Louis Rees-Zammit scores a try against Wales. Photo credit: Getty Images

With the score poised at 32-26 in favour of the Welsh and the clock in the red, neutral fan-favourites Fiji launched waves of rolling attacksm as they sought victory, but Radrada's spill out wide in the clammy late night heat signalled it was not to be for Fiji, who must once again rue missed opportunities for all their scintillating play.

Wales next play Portugal on September 16 at Nice, while Fiji play Australia the next day at Saint-Etienne.

Wales 32 (Adams, North, Rees-Zammit & Dee tries; Biggar 3 conversions & 2 penalties) Fiji 26 (Nayacalevu, Tagitagivalu, Tuisova & Doge tries; Lomani 2 &  Tela conversions)


Join Newshub at 7am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v Namibia Rugby World Cup pool clash