Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney.
Time: Saturday 1 November, 4pm (local)
Score: Halftime: Fiji 14 Ė 6 Scotland
Fulltime: Scotland 22 Ė 20 Fiji
A crucial game for both teams, with the winner going through to the quarter finals and the loser earning only an early exit from the competition.
Arrived at the SFS (*cough* Aussie Stadium *cough*) at 3:30 to give myself plenty of time to get in as usual. The crowd that was streaming into the ground was unbelievable. Packed house for sure was my first thought.
Skipped the beer queues, since it seemed every Scotsman in the place was half dead from thirst and I was seated with ten minutes to spare.
There seemed to be a real buzz to the crowd, it was somehow different from normal. There seemed to be a party going on and the crowd was invited. I knew it was to be a big game no matter what happened on the field.
Beautiful Sydney afternoon too, a mild temperature, plenty of sunshine and the wind outside didnít seem to be affecting things in the ground too much. Mild temp for Sydney this time of year, I was wishing for higher and hoping the Scots were feeling it. Time would tell.
The first half of the match was all Fiji. They seemed to be playing the game in Scotlandís half very successfully, and managed to mount some serious raids on their line. Caucau scored twice in the first half, with scintillating bursts of pace down the left hand touch line.
Indeed the Fijian game plan seemed to be to get forty metres from the Scottish line, have a couple of rucks on the right hand side of the field to suck in some Scotsmen and then get the ball to Caucau as fast as possible on the left. The other part of the plan was to beat the snot out of the Scots when they had the ball. GeniusÖ
Scotland by contrast had little answer in the first half, never really looking like crossing Fijiís line, giving their fans precious little to cheer about (not that that stopped them much), while at least keeping the scoreboard ticking over with two converted penalties to their credit.
One got the sense in the first half that they were there to wait the Fijian's out, hoping they would tire so they could grind out a win in the second half.
But that could wait until after a quick trip to the bar, and I might say that I wouldn't mind if the SFS kept Heineken on tap permanently, although a cheaper option for when one feels poor would need to be brought back too.
Second half and grind out a win was just what they did. I didnít know it at the time, but apparently Caucau suffered a knee injury early in the second half that slowed him down considerably.
Rather than taking on the outside of the Scottish line, he was opting for the chip and chase quite a bit which puzzled me.
By about three quarter time, Scotland had taken the lead 15-14, edging their way into the front on the boot of Chris Paterson, and one could sense that their fitness may just bring them home against a tiring Fijian side that was leaving very little in the tank.
A couple of Fijian penalty goals to take them to 20-15 brought the sense that they may just get away with it after all. But Scotland did not seem to panic and continued to grind away at the Fijians. Something gave and Api Naevo was yellow carded close to time and his own line.
The Scotland forwards drove the ball ahead and managed to get over the line for a solid forwards try to prop Tom Smith in the 77th minute.
With the game tied on 20 apiece, the Scottish conversion was slotted and Scotland earned themselves a hard-fought win over a committed Fijian side who were prepared to run the ball from anywhere.
The crowd left happy they had seen a real battle between two sides they would not normally have the privilege to see play each other on a sunny Sydney Saturday.