A first victory over France and an all-time high of eighth in the World Rugby Rankings saw Fijian rugby conclude what had already been a marvellous year with two more milestones achieved in Paris on Saturday evening.
Over the last 12 months, the World Rugby Pacific Challenge and World Rugby U20 Championship titles have been won by the Fiji Warriors and Fiji U20s respectively, while Fiji Drua secured the Australia National Rugby Championship at only the second time of asking on the eve of this November’s senior tour.
Eight of the players involved in the Drua’s success graduated to the Flying Fijian squad and one of them, Josua Tuisova, got on the scoresheet as John McKee’s side secured a famous 21-14 win over Les Bleus at the Stade de France.
Semi Radradra had opened the scoring in the 19th minute before France hooker and captain Guilhem Guirado responded for Les Bleus. Guirado crossed again in the first half and with Baptiste Serin adding both conversions, France enjoyed a 14-12 lead at the break.
However, the home side failed to breach Fiji’s defence in the second 40 and three Ben Volavola penalties were enough to see Fiji make history.
With 1.55 points awarded to them, Fiji’s overall score is now 77.95 points which takes them above both France and Argentina.
New Zealand end a ninth straight season on top of the rankings. It needed an All Black defeat to Italy combined with a win for Ireland over the USA for them to be dethroned but, while the Irish obliged with a 57-14 victory at the Aviva Stadium, the All Blacks were in no mood to surrender their advantage.
Ten tries, all from the backs, were scored as Steve Hansen’s men bounced back from their disappointing 16-9 loss to Ireland the week before with an emphatic 66-3 win at the Stade Olimpico in Rome.
Meanwhile, an Andrew Conway hat-trick helped spark a weekend of celebration for Ireland who swept the board at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco the following day with the Men’s Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Tema of the Year accolades.
Conway’s treble was accompanied by tries from Jack Conan, Tadhg Beirne, Stuart McCloskey, Quinn Roux and John Ryan as Ireland completed their November programme unbeaten for the second consecutive year.
Wales, too, completed a historic clean sweep of wins after overcoming South Africa 20-11.
They led 14-3 at half-time following tries for prop Tomas Francis and full-back Liam Williams. South Africa then responded with a try from centre Jessie Kriel before Dan Biggar came off the bench to kick two late penalties.
Wales’ ninth win in a row, their longest winning streak since 1999, earned them 0.54 of a rating which keeps them a fraction of a point ahead of England in third place in the rankings.