Rugby World Cup: South Africa and Japan Win Openers. Heartbreak for Fiji against Wales
10:32 JST, September 11, 2023
PARIS (AP) — Wales struggled to hold off fast-finishing Fiji to win 32-26 in the latest instalment of their entertaining Rugby World Cup rivalry on Sunday in Bordeaux.
The pre-tournament hype around Fiji looked to be justified when Waisea Nayacalevu and Lekima Tagitagivalu scored classic Fijian tries from deep in the space of four minutes to vault their team into a 14-8 lead by the 17th.
They didn’t score another point until the 73rd as the Welsh regrouped to deliver a mature and determined riposte, even claiming an attacking bonus point for going over for four tries. Josh Adams, the top try-scorer in the 2019 World Cup, got off the mark four years later with one of them.
This match didn’t quite reach the level of Fiji’s epic 38-34 win in 2007 but it wasn’t far off. Fiji produced some spellbinding rugby early on that had Welsh tacklers flapping at thin air, and summoned up one last flourish that nearly brought about a thrilling victory.
Long after the 80th minute, a long miss-out pass bounced to an unmarked Semi Radradra on the left wing but he spilled it and Wales breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Fiji has to beat Australia next weekend to stay in quarterfinals contention. Wales plays Portugal next.
SOUTH AFRICA 18, SCOTLAND 3
South Africa put the squeeze on a brave Scotland, scoring two tries early in the second half to break open a close game and win 18-3 to start its title defense in Marseille.
The Springboks showed both sides of their game at Stade Velodrome where flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit bashed his way over in the 46th minute and winger Kurt-Lee Arendse flew onto a perfect cross-kick from flyhalf Manie Libbok three minutes later to make a narrow 6-3 lead at halftime suddenly comfortable.
There were no more points as South Africa closed it down in the last half-hour, using a set-piece dominance it ultimately gained and physical, rushing defense to keep the game Scots at bay.
South Africa ended with two player concerns, though. Lock enforcer Eben Etzebeth left after 25 minutes with an apparent injury, although it wasn’t clear what. And center Jesse Kriel might face a post-game citing and disciplinary hearing after his head clash with Scotland No. 8 Jack Dempsey in a front-on tackle that was missed by referee Angus Gardner.
South Africa has Romania next weekend, when Scotland plays Tonga.
JAPAN 42, CHILE 12
Chile’s debut at the Rugby World Cup went better than anyone expected even though it lost to Japan 42-12 in Toulouse.
Los Condores were willing and able and gave Japan, a quarterfinalist at the last World Cup, a hard time in an entertaining match. They even had sizeable support at Stadium de Toulouse judging by all of the red jerseys.
Captain Kazuki Himeno was a late withdrawal to a calf injury but Japan still started with nine players with World Cup experience and bagged the bonus-point win from six converted tries, two by rookie lock Amato Fakatava.
But they also conceded two tries and were tattooed by Chilean defenders in baking conditions.
Japan missed 28 tackles but had the nous to exploit two yellow cards against Chile and lead 21-7 by halftime. Rikiya Matsuda, criticized for missing some easy goalkicks this year, was also perfect off the tee.
Japan faces England next weekend. Chile has Samoa.
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