Wales hold on to beat battling Fiji 32-26 in absorbing World Cup opener

Wales were made to work extremely hard in their first Pool D fixture
©Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Wales survived a late Fiji fightback as they began their World Cup campaign with a 32-26 victory after a thrilling contest in Bordeaux.

After Dan Biggar had nudged Wales in front inside the first minute, Josh Adams finished off a brilliantly constructed try to hand Warren Gatland's side the ideal start but Fiji then flew out of the traps.

Waisea Nayacalevu darted over and on 17 minutes, things got better for the Pacific Islanders as Lekima Tagitagivalu surged through to leave Wales stunned.

Biggar reduced the deficit with another three from the tee but Wales continued to look untidy until a much-needed spark saw Nick Tompkins put George North over for the lead.

But even then, Wales couldn't fully get to grips with the contest with Fiji constantly winning the physical battle and dominating territory (65 per cent in total across the game).

Despite trailing 18-14 at the interval, it felt like the Flying Fijians had the wind behind them but it was first blood to Wales in the second 40 with Louis-Rees Zammit touching down and after weathering more pressure from the Pacific Islanders, Elliot Dee was able to burrow over.

With 10 minutes to go, Josua Tuisova claimed a third for Fiji and they set up a nervy finish with Mesake Doge going over.

They could have even snatched it if Semi Radradra hadn't uncharacteristically fumbled the ball with the try-line just inches away but in the end, Wales were able to see it out and get off to an all-important winning start.

"I'm delighted with the win but frustrated with the last 15 minutes," Gatland said. "We made some dumb decisions in terms of discipline and penalties when we were in control of the game. There will be a lot of learnings.

"I think we will get better as the tournament goes on. When you're 32-14 up, you keep your accuracy and discipline and you don't allow any opportunities. That, for me, is the biggest disappointment.

"With seven minutes to go, I wondered about just going down to the changing rooms and waiting for the final whistle! I'm frustrated and angry about the end."

After Ireland had rocked up to Bordeaux and put on a show in the sunshine on Saturday, this contest between Wales and Fiji entertained in a completely different sense of the word.

Breathless at times.

This, the scene where Wales' football side began their famous run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals but if Gatland and his charges want to take their supporters on a similar journey, they may have to sharpen up.

Yes, Fiji are one of the bigger threats in Pool C for Wales but the start from the men in red suggested they meant business. A solid turnover from Ryan Elias at the breakdown allowed Wales to profit straight away from the boot of Biggar and what followed shortly after was a lovely score.

Off the line-out, Gareth Davies and Biggar combined with Tompkins and North before Williams delivered the final pass to Adams who finished off a routine which would have pleased the Wales coaching staff.

There were a couple of flashes of Fiji's flair in the early stages but they then came alive as Wales were punished for overplaying in their own half. They were forced into touch and after conceding a line-out, skipper Nayacalevu stormed over after Semi Radradra had cut a terrifying line.

The Wales defence had been broken with ease and their fragility was on show again four minutes later as Davies was left stranded after Nayacalevu and Radradra combined to send Tagitagivalu clear following a deadly first-phase attack.

With Fiji now three points ahead, could Wales respond? Well, the fans to the left of the press box were cutting agitated figures as Wales looked a tad scruffy. Their attack for that opening try seemed to have evaporated in the sticky Bordeaux heat.

But then came a welcome shot in the arm for Wales. First, another Biggar penalty and then, when their phase play began to look clunky, Tompkins and North linked well with the latter diving over.

However, Wales then lost the resulting kick-off and were back under pressure yet again. Saracens' Eroni Mawi could have given Fiji the advantage on half-time but he knocked on over the line.

On the whistle, Biggar didn't hold back his emotions and clear frustration as he let rip on North and Tomklins for not kicking the ball out of play with the clock in the red. 

So Gatland's troops ahead after an utterly absorbing 40 minutes but Fiji had bossed possession and territory with Wales' 'tackles-made' stats into triple figures.

There was no question Wales needed to go up a gear or two in the second period so when another penalty attempt from Biggar sailed off target, it certainly didn't help matters but perhaps Rees-Zammit's try was what they were craving.

A stunning cross-field kick and bit of intelligence from captain Jac Morgan - after a good break from Tompkins - sent the winger in on the right.

An Adams hit to halt Selestinio Ravutaumada in his stride was celebrated by those in red like they had won the game as the Welsh supporters began to find their voices again.

But Fiji weren't about to roll over in this gripping contest. They began to push Wales back and had them camped on their own try line, but just as it looked as though referee Matthew Carley would show a yellow card to Gatland's side, Will Rowlands' tackle on Levani Botia ended the waves of attack.

Fiji may well feel aggrieved that the cards stayed in Carley's pocket with the try-line at their mercy but a sin-binning wasn't forthcoming despite repeated infringements. Wales, on the other hand, may well feel fortunate.

"It is pretty tough to talk when you are hot after the match," said Fiji boss Simon Raiwalu. "In the corner, we had multiple penalties and Wales didn't get a yellow card. When we were up the other end, we did.

"Referees have got a tough job but as a coach, all we are looking for is consistency. We didn't get the rub of the green on a couple of occasions."

Fiji's annoyance at the officiating grew further when Tagitagivalu saw yellow for dragging down a maul before Dee capitalised on the man advantage.

However, Gatland's men continued to make life difficult for themselves. Corey Domachowski was sent to bin and this compelling contest saw Fiji score next with Tuisova grabbing their third of the evening.

They weren't done there, either.

Doge's close-range effort cut Wales' advantage to just six points with two minutes to go and then it looked for all the world like Radradra would set up the chance for Fiji to snatch it, but his agonising knock-on proved to be the last action as Gatland's side hung on.

Relief for Wales and Portugal up next. For Fiji, Australia.