Fiji caused a major upset when they secured a hard-fought 21-14 victory against France in their November international in Paris on Saturday.
In a fast-paced and entertaining game, both sides scored two tries apiece but Fiji deserved their win as they delivered brilliant passages of play throughout and also had two tries disallowed.
The win is a significant one for the Pacific islanders as it is their first-ever victory over France in 10 Tests.
The opening exchanges were closely contested and Fiji were competitive from the kick-off. They spent large periods camped inside Les Bleus’ half and the home side battled to build momentum during the early stages.
The Pacific islanders grew in confidence as the half progressed and took the lead midway through it via a spectacular try from Semi Radradra. This, after the Bordeaux-Begles star gathered the ball deep inside France’s 22 and shrugged off challenges from Sebastien Vahaamahina and Baptiste Serin before crashing over for the opening try with two defenders on his back.
Ben Volavola slotted the conversion but it did not take long for France to respond and five minutes later their captain, Guilhem Guirado, powered his way over the try-line off the back of a line-out drive deep inside Fiji’s 22.
Serin added the extras which meant the sides were level at 7-7 after 25 minutes. But on the hour-mark, Fiji regained their lead when Josua Tuisova rounded off in the right-hand corner after Volavola found Vereniki Goneva in space and the veteran wing beat two defenders before offloading to Radradra. He did well to draw in the final defender before getting the final pass out to Tuisova.
And in the 37th minute, Fiji thought they had extended the lead when Radradra won a turnover at a ruck deep inside his half and launched a counter attack. He offloaded to Goneva, who outpaced the cover defence on his way over the try-line but the score was disallowed when the television match official ruled that Radradra was in an offside position in the build-up.
That decision proved costly as deep into injury time, Guirado crossed for his second try from a line-out maul close to Fiji’s try-line and Serin succeeded with the conversion attempt which gave his side a 14-12 lead at half-time.
The second-half started brightly for the visitors and three minutes after the restart, Volavola gave them the lead when he slotted a penalty after Vahaamahina was blown up for an indiscretion at a ruck.
Fiji continued to run the ball from all areas of the field and in the 49th minute, Leone Nakarawa offloaded brilliantly to Tuisova, who dotted down in the corner but that effort was also disallowed for a late tackle from Tevita Cavubati on Yoann Huget earlier on.
In the 58th minute, Volavola added his second penalty after another indiscretion from France at a breakdown and with Fiji now holding an 18-14 lead, France stepped up a few gears on attack.
But their efforts were in vain as Fiji met them head on with a superb defensive effort with Nakarawa and Jale Vatubua particularly impressive.
The game’s final stages was a frantic affair and after launching a counter-attack, Fiji found themselves on the attack deep inside France’s half.
In the 80th minute, Les Bleus conceded another defensive penalty which Volavola converted to seal a memorable and historic win for his side.