Three games. Three victories. Wales kept their foot on the throat of England and Australia by seeing off Fiji to move top of Pool A.
No country has failed to reach the quarter-finals after winning three group games, with Warren Gatland’s wounded troops marching on with fate firmly in their own hands.
The repercussions for England are simple – lose against Australia on Saturday night and their World Cup is over.
Gatland’s side started with intensity in Cardiff, playing fast and hard to knock the wind out of the Fijian sails early.
It is five years since George North was compared to Jonah Lomu on the day of his debut, and the powerful winger showed signs of his destructive best when he smashed through Asaeli Tikoirotuma after just 40 seconds.
Like a wasp in a jam jar, he had Fiji trapped inside their own 22 and every attempt to run the ball out of danger was repelled by the Welsh attackers. Fiji were penalised on the first scrum – although it did not become a trend – and, after a quick tap penalty from Toby Faletau, scrum-half Gareth Davies sold a dummy and wriggled through for a seventh minute try.
Against England, the scrum was a thorny issue for the Welsh pack and it continued to be the source of trouble at the Millennium Stadium. The ever-improving Pacific Islanders overpowered the hosts to win a 13th minute penalty – scored by Ben Volavola – and they were penalised twice more within four minutes.
Watching from the stands, Prince William winced when Alex Cuthbert and Bradley Davies were both taken off inside the opening quarter. Wales already have an injury nearing double figures, so there was relief as both were cleared to return to the field.
With a twitchy rendition of his kicking routine, No 10 Dan Biggar kept the scoreboard ticking over but, in quick succession, his side fluffed two chances for a second try. Rookie outside centre Tyler Morgan was penalised for coming off his feet at the breakdown after Matthew Morgan’s slipper break, before Davies cost his side good territory when he was blown up for a neck roll on Netani Talei.
The danger signs were there for the hosts. With Vereniki Goneva and Tikoirotuma looking to get their hands on the ball, Fiji looked to exploit any broken field opportunities with their fast and powerful runners. But by playing a territorial game, Wales were able to keep their foot on the throat and moved 14 points clear when – after some neat hands in midfield – Scott Baldwin stretched over after 32 minutes.
Wales’s scrum rows continued, with Gethin Jenkins – a frequent offender – penalised for collapsing just before the break, with Volavola doubling his side’s tally before half-time. It instilled belief in the Fijian ranks and, adopting more of a kicking game after the break, they sniffed an upset.
The ever-dangerous Tikoirotuma slipped through Jenkins’s tackle and, with 50 minutes on the clock, Fiji did what the do best and exploited the unstructured defence. Timoci Nagusa kept the moved going, with Goneva on his shoulder to finish the score.
Wales were hanging on. Only another penalty from Biggar – maintaining his 100 per cent record – helped knock the spring out of Fiji’s step. Quickly becoming one of the world’s leading fly-halves, Biggar was on target again to give Wales some breathing space before limping off in the 73rd minute.
After a lengthy intervention form the Television Match Official, Davies was judged to have been held up in the 77th minute – with a four-try bonus point going begging.