Australia’s World Cup campaign is in jeopardy after Eddie Jones’ men suffered a frustrating 22-15 loss to Fiji in Saint-Etienne on Monday morning AEST.
The Wallabies, who conceded 17 penalties, were outplayed throughout the tournament at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, shooting themselves in the foot through poor discipline and breakdown errors.
It is the first time Fiji have beaten Australia in a Test match since 1954.
The Fijians were superb in defence, especially as Australia threatened an unlikely second-half comeback, with a seven-point win keeping their World Cup campaign alive.
“A thoroughly deserved win for Fiji,” Jones said after the defeat.
“They beat us, especially around the cover.
“For some reason we just got knocked out today.
“We were a poor version of ourselves today.
“A little soul-searching is required.”
MATCH FOCUS: Results between Australia and Fiji
The Wallabies were without captain Will Skelton for the pool match, with Dave Porecki leading in his absence.
Australia took an early lead after Josua Tuisov’s tackle on Rob Valetini was deemed too high, with Ben Donaldson converting a penalty in the third minute.
But Fiji hit back with a three-pointer of their own after the Wallabies were penalized for a breakdown, with Simione Kuruvoli nailing home a 40-metre kick.
The Fijians took the lead in the 21st minute after Fraser McReight was pinged for standing up, with Kuruvoli slotting home another long-range free-kick.
A famous 50-22 kick from halfback Nic White set the Wallabies up for the opening try, with Australia getting into a quick set-up when the Fijians were caught napping. Samu Kerevi laid a boot to winger Mark Nawaqanitawase who went down but Donaldson missed.
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Fiji pulled ahead in the 26th minute after White was penalized for a controversial high tackle, with Kuruvoli slotting in a three-pointer to extend the lead to four points after the Aussies were pinged for collapsing a driving maul.
The Wallabies survived a late charge before the break, but the second half started badly for the Aussies.
Kurivoli’s kick into the box went untouched after Carter Gordon and Nawaqanitawase cleared the rebound, with Joshua Tuisova pulling down his boot to score in the corner. Kuruvoli nailed the conversion and in the 44th minute secured a healthy 11-point lead for the Fijians.
The Fijian half-back was substituted minutes later and substitute Frank Lomani missed his first free-kick, the effort flying to the left of the stick.
Gordon, who had a night to remember in Saint-Etienne, grabbed the ball in the 50th minute.
Fiji’s defense was impenetrable in the second half and careless errors at the breakdown repeatedly stalled Australia’s momentum.
The Wallabies suddenly trailed by two converted tries when Lomani kicked a penalty in the 66th minute, with back-up prop Jordan Uelese withdrawn for an HIA.
There was a glimmer of hope for Australia when winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored in the 68th minute as Donaldson converted a spot-kick to reduce the deficit to seven points.
Fiji lost back-to-back lineouts to gift Australia possession in the dying minutes, but another error at the breakdown thwarted the desperate Wallabies.
The Aussies were pushed off the ball in the final scrum, with Fiji unsuccessfully attempting a penalty in the final minute to deny the Wallabies a bonus point.
“Really proud of the boys. It was a great game against a great Australian team,” Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui said.
“It was a great match – he kept us guessing until the end.
“I couldn’t be prouder. It’s not just today. It’s a combination of the work we’ve done since the start of the campaign. The boys have worked really hard and pushed them to the limit. They’ve never complained once. When you work hard, you get results.”
Australia next face Wales in a must-win pool match at the OL Stadium in Lyon on Monday 25 September at 5am AEST.
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