In a surprising turn of events at the Rugby World Cup 2023, Portugal achieved a historic win over Fiji. This victory, however, was not enough to propel the Wallabies into the tournament’s quarter-finals.
Portugal, a team comprised of both amateur and professional players, secured their first-ever Rugby World Cup victory. The thrilling match concluded with Portugal scoring a crucial try in the 77th minute, sealing their historic triumph.
Despite their loss to Portugal, Fiji managed to secure a bonus point by losing by less than eight points. This meant that Fiji finished on equal footing with the Wallabies in second place in Pool C. According to the tournament’s tie-breaker rules, head-to-head record took precedence, and since Fiji had defeated the Wallabies in their pool match, Fiji earned a spot in the quarter-finals where they will face England in Marseille next weekend.
The Wallabies, who had been in France for a week awaiting the possibility of qualification, will now return to Australia on Tuesday.
The late try by Portugal secured them a celebrated victory, while Fiji managed to avoid a disastrous outcome by not losing by eight points or more. During the second half of the match, there was a moment when the Wallabies and their dedicated fans began to hope.
Portugal’s victory was a remarkable achievement, especially considering that only 17 of their squad members played professionally in France, with the remainder participating in an amateur Portuguese domestic competition, balancing work and studies alongside their rugby commitments.
In the second half, Portugal displayed a remarkable change in their playstyle, resembling Fiji with daring offloads and powerful tackling. Despite Fiji losing a player to the sin bin early in the second half, Portugal managed to score two tries, taking a 17-10 lead with thirty minutes left on the clock.
One more score by Portugal, of any kind, could have secured the Wallabies’ qualification. However, Fiji regrouped, wearing down the Portuguese defense, and a prop, Mesake Dogo, scored a crucial try in the 67th minute to level the scores.
Two penalties from Frank Lomani gave Fiji a six-point lead as the game approached its conclusion, seemingly securing their victory. However, Portugal staged a remarkable comeback, with winger Rodrigo Marta scoring a try in the 77th minute. Halfback Samuel Marques sealed the victory with a successful conversion, and Portugal celebrated their historic win.
Portugal had earned their spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup through a last-minute kick by Marques against the USA. This was only their second appearance in the tournament, having previously participated in the 2007 edition, where they lost all four games.
Veteran hooker Mike Tadjer expressed his joy, stating, “Obviously, I can die tomorrow. It’s going to be an awesome day for me.” He also mentioned that some of the squad members were amateur in Portugal, while others played professionally in France.
Nicolas Martins, named Man of the Match, described the victory as incredible and historic. Fiji, on the other hand, expressed disappointment in their loss but acknowledged Portugal’s strong performance.
For the Wallabies, their journey at the Rugby World Cup 2023 ended prematurely, marking their first-ever exit at the pool stages. Rugby Australia plans to conduct a post-World Cup review in November to analyze the campaign’s shortcomings.