Wales were given an almighty scare by Fiji on Wednesday, before registering a hard-earned 29-17 win in their Rugby World Cup clash in Oita.
In a tough and uncompromising encounter which was characterised by brilliant attacking play and several brutal collisions, Fiji were competitive throughout but Wales proved too strong in the end and outscored the Pacific Islanders by four tries to three with Josh Adams leading the way with a hat-trick.
Liam Williams also crossed the whitewash for Wales whose other points came via two conversions from Dan Biggar as well as a penalty and a conversion from Rhys Patchell.
Josua Tuisova and Kini Murimurivalu scored five-pointers for Fiji and they were also awarded a penalty try.
Fiji made their intentions know from the outset as they launched several attacks early on and the game exploded into life when Tuisova opened the scoring with a brilliant try in the fourth minute.
This, after he gathered a pass from Frank Lomani off the back of a scrum on Wales’ five-metre line and he bumped off Adams before crossing the whitewash despite the attentions of Biggar and Josh Navidi.
Two minutes later, Wales thought they had drawn level when George North scooped up a loose ball in Fiji’s 22 before passing to Josh Navidi, who dotted down, but his effort was disallowed after Hadleigh Parkes knocked on in the build-up.
Shortly afterwards, Fiji also had a try disallowed after the final pass went forward from Semi Radradra to Lomani, who crossed the whitewash. The Pacific Islanders received a shot in the arm, however, when Wales were reduced to 14 men after Ken Owens was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Viliame Mata after he offloaded to Radradra.
Fiji made full use of their numerical advantage as shortly afterwards Radradra found Murimurivalu with a long pass out wide and the full-back showed great determination as he powered through two tackles on his way over the try-line.
Despite trailing 10-0, Wales did not panic and they received a boost when the Pacific Islanders were also reduced to 14 men after Tevita Cavubati was sent to the sin for a shoulder charge at a ruck on Alun Wyn Jones.
And just like the previous yellow card which helped Fiji, Wales also benefitted as Adams soon crossed the whitewash after gathering a cross-field kick from Biggar, who also slotted the conversion.
Adams was over the try-line again in the 26th minute but a superb cover tackle from Tuisova pushed him into touch while dotting down.
Fiji were then reduced to 14 men again when Semi Kunatani was yellow carded for an offside tackle deep inside his 22 and on the half-hour mark Adams scored his second five-pointer after gathering a pass from Jonathan Davies close to Fiji’s try-line.
Biggar added the extras which gave his side a 14-10 lead again and although the closing stages were frantic, with Wales doing most of the attacking, Fiji’s defence held firm and no further points were before half-time.
Just like the opening period, the second half started at a frentic pace with plenty of end-to-end action.
In the 53rd minutes, James Davies became the fourth player to be sent to the sin bin due to a cynical defensive foul deep inside Fiji’s half. Volavola put the resulting penalty into touch on Wales’ five-metre line and Fiji launched a lineout drive from the set-piece which was brought to ground close to Wales’ try-line and referee Jérôme Garcès had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try to the Pacific Islanders.
That meant Fiji were leading 17-14 and Wales were dealt a further blow when Biggar was forced off the field shortly afterwars for an HIA, after he collided with Williams while trying to field a high ball.
Biggar was replaced by Patchell, who drew his side level when he slotted a penatly in the 58th minute before Adams scored his third try in spectacular fashion after gathering a backhanded pass from Jonathan Davies close to the left-handed corner flag.
Although Fiji continued to fight, Wales finished stronger and secured the win in the game’s closing stages when Williams scored their bonus-point try after receiving a pass from Gareth Davies, who had exploited a whole in Fiji’s defence in the build-up.
The result means Wales advance to the quarter-finals and they will look to secure top spot when they face Uruguay in their final pool match in Kumamoto on Sunday.
For Wales: Tries: Adams 3, L Williams Cons: Biggar 2 Pen: Patchell Yellow Cards: Owens, James Davies
For Fiji: Tries: Tuisova, Murimurivalu, Penalty try Yellow Cards: Cavubati, Kunatani
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Semi Kunatani, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Campese Ma’afu Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Peni Ravai, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Jale Vatubua, 23 Josh Matavesi
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France) Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Karl Dickson (England) TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)