Fiji secured a quarter-final against England in Marseille in a week’s time but the glory in a mesmerising match at Stadium de Toulouse went to Portugal as they won their first ever Rugby World Cup game.
Australia’s future in the competition rested with Os Lobos denying the Flying Fijians a point from this final Pool C match, the last of 40 pool stage contests at Rugby World Cup 2023.
That remained a possibility for most of the game, with the 3-3 half-time scoreline raising the prospect of Patrice Lagisquet guiding Portugal to their maiden win in his final match as head coach.
His team flew out the traps in the second half and wing Raffaele Storti outpaced the Fijians to score Portugal’s opening try. With Fiji rattled, Rodrigo Marta gathered a high ball and raced forward in a thrilling attack.
However, Fiji full-back Sireli Maqala scooped the loose ball and weaved his way through the red shirts as Fiji launched an attack of their own. He was eventually brought to ground but the impetus was there for Levani Botia to barrel over, his converted try making it 10-10.
The props then came to the fore in this astonishing encounter. Francisco Fernandes forced his way over while Botia was in the sin bin and it took a further 17 minutes for Fiji to level through Mesake Doge, also crossing the try line from close range.
Two late Frank Lomani penalties looked as if they had ended the game as a contest only for Marta’s late try and Samuel Marques’s nail-biting conversion at the death giving Portugal a historic victory.
Nicolas Martins, Mastercard Player of the Match, said: “It’s incredible, I have no words. It’s historic, I’m so happy. I think it’s the best moment of my life.
“We are a team of friends from Portugal but we live together, it’s something incredible.” On fans:
“It’s incredible, all the public are for us and Fiji are playing well but all these – I don’t have the words.”
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“A howler” – Four England players Steve Borthwick must drop, and who should replace them for quarter-final
#1. Jonny May
Telegraph 4/10: “May brought energy as ever but there was also the customary chaos. Out of position for Samoa’s second try, leaving Steward to scramble in vain.”
Rugby Pass 4/10: “It was his break that scattered the Samoan defence on 18 minutes in the lead-up to the infringement that gave Farrell his points record, but that was about it for him on the ball and he will instead be remembered for ineffectively clinging onto a leg of the tr-scoring Ah-Wong minutes later. England need a hurry up in this position, with May not looking the part.”
RUCK 4/10: “We’re uncertain why he continues to be selected over the lightning-fast Henry Arundell, Seemed to spend the whole afternoon running sideways”
Replacement: Henry Arundell