Wales weathered a furious Fijian onslaught to reach the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, sending Australia through in the process, as Scotland thrashed Russia to set up a showdown with hosts Japan.
With approaching Typhoon Hagibis threatening to cause havoc with this weekend’s final pool games, the Welsh found themselves in a storm of their own before emerging from a physical battering with a 29-17, bonus-point win.
The result guarantees Wales and Australia’s progress from Pool D, which the Welsh top by three points ahead of their remaining game against Uruguay. Australia play Georgia on Friday.
But the win came at a cost, with fly-half Dan Biggar ruled out of Sunday’s final pool game after a sickening blow to the head, and leg injuries to three-try hero Josh Adams and centre Jonathan Davies which are still to be assessed.
“Look, that was tough. They’ve got some unbelievable individuals and we just had to stay in it,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland.
“We’ve got a tough four-day turnaround to Uruguay. I think the medics are going to be working pretty hard in the next 24-48 hours,” he added.
With the pool stage culminating this weekend, officials warned that Hagibis, currently classed as “violent” – the top end of Japan’s storm scale – is on track to hit parts of Japan’s coast, possibly barrelling straight into Tokyo on Saturday.
England and France are due to play their final Pool C game on Saturday in Yokohama, adjacent to Tokyo. If the game has to be moved, Oita in Japan’s south-west is the most likely alternative venue, a source close to the French camp told AFP.
World Rugby is due to give an update on the situation on Thursday. The typhoon could also affect this weekend’s Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, west of Tokyo.
In Pool D, Oita was treated to an end-to-end clash marked by bone-crunching challenges and Biggar’s heavy head-knock which caused worrying moments as he lay prone on the field.
Josua Tuisova smashed through three defenders to score Fiji’s first try before Kini Murimurivalu made it 10-0 after just eight minutes, with Ben Volavola missing both conversions.
But Adams leapt high to gather Biggar’s cross-field kick and get Wales on the board, and he dotted down again to make it 14-10 at the break as Tevita Cavubati and then Ken Owens spent time in the sin-bin – the first two of four yellow cards in all.
In a breathless second period, Fiji were awarded a penalty try and Biggar – who failed a head injury assessment just 10 days ago – was knocked groggy after an aerial collision with Liam Williams. Gatland later said Biggar would not be available for Sunday’s game with Uruguay.
Replacement fly-half Rhys Patchell kicked a long-range penalty to square it at 17-17 before Adams completed his hat-trick with an acrobatic touch-down in the corner. A Gareth Davies break through midfield released Williams to seal the win at 29-17.
In Shizuoka, Adam Hastings – son of Scotland great Gavin – starred with 26 points, including two tries, as the Scots thrashed already-eliminated Russia 61-0 to maintain their hopes of qualifying from a tight Pool A.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend rested the likes of big guns Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Blade Thompson and Johnny Gray, with only a four-day turnover before facing the Brave Blossoms in Yokohama on Sunday.
But Townsend’s bet on a largely second-string side producing enough to seal the win paid off as Hastings ran the show with aplomb at Shizuoka’s Ecopa Stadium.
Scotland will be anxiously watching reports on the incoming typhoon, as they will be eliminated if Sunday’s game is cancelled and marked down as a 0-0 draw. They still need a bonus-point win over Japan on Sunday, while preventing the hosts from picking up a losing bonus point.
Earlier, fly-half Nicolas Sanchez showed Argentina what they had been missing with a masterful first-half performance as the Pumas restored pride with a 47-17 win against the United States.
Sanchez was controversially left out of the matchday 23 for the crunch match against England last Saturday, which Argentina lost 39-10, resulting in their first pool-stage exit since 2003.
But the Stade Francais playmaker ran the show against the United States in Kumagaya, which also witnessed the last appearance of 87-Test veteran Juan Manuel Leguizamon.