The Wallabies' hopes of a miracle at the Rugby World Cup have been doused by Fiji, who lost to Portugal on Monday morning (Aussie time) but did enough to earn the bonus point that ended Australia's campaign. Eddie Jones' side needed Portugal to beat Fiji by more than seven points, which would have seen the Aussies receive a huge lifeline and advance to the quarter-finals.
But Portugal's 24-23 victory wasn't enough for Australia, because Fiji earned a bonus point for losing by less than seven points. It means Australia and Fiji both finished on 11 points after the pool stage, but Fiji advanced because they beat the Wallabies earlier in the tournament.
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The Wallabies needed a miracle from Portugal on Monday morning, and the European minnows looked to have answered the prayer. Portugal managed to hold Fiji to a 3-3 scoreline at half-time, before hitting the lead in the second half 17-10.
But Fiji got it back to 17-17, before kicking two late penalty goals to send the Wallabies packing. Rodrigo Marta scored a dramatic late try before Samuel Marques nailed the conversion to give Portugal their first win in World Cup history.
But Fiji are advancing for th first time in 16 years after doing enough to send Australia home. It marks the first time in World Cup history that an Australian side haven't made it out of the pool stage.
Jones had earlier joked that he might send Fiji-born Wallabies Marika Koroibete and Suliasi Vunivalu to sabotage the Pacific islanders' preparations. "Maybe take some kava to Fiji, I'll give Marika and Suli my credit card and get them to go to the Fiji camp with some kava," he said. Maybe that might work."
Speaking last week, Jones lamented the fact that record losses to Fiji and Wales meant the Wallabies' fate was taken out of their hands. "The disappointment is we haven't controlled our own destiny," he said. "In a pool stage you want to control your own destiny and we haven't done that. As I've said, I take full responsibility for that.
"We've done all we can and the (Fiji-Portugal) game will take its course - we don't control the result so I'm not going to spend too much time worrying about it. We've had our go in the World Cup and we're sitting where we are and we accept our position. If it happens that we get another chance so be it, and if it doesn't we've only got to look at ourselves."
Wallabies out of the Rugby World Cup despite Portugal knocking over Fiji 24-23 in the final match of the pool stage.
Fiji’s losing bonus point sees them join Australia on 11 points, but the Wallabies are OUT after losing to the Flying Fijians last month.
— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) October 8, 2023
Tears of joy for Portugal
What a tease for Wallabies fans
Portugal with a huge upset win 24-23 over Fiji but the margin gives Fiji a bonus point to progress to the quarter finals
Australia's World Cup is OFFICIALLY now over
— 🎙️QUENTIN HULL (@QuentinHull) October 8, 2023
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) October 8, 2023
— Rugby 🏉 (@sin_bin_squad) October 8, 2023
The embarrassing thing about this as an Aussie fan needing a Portugal win is that Portugal are a better watch than the wallabies.
— Wally.B.Jesus (@waratahjesus) October 8, 2023
Even when the Wallabies aren't playing rugby finds a way to torture Australian fans. C'mon Portugal #RWC2023
— Hamish Cole (@HamishCole4) October 8, 2023
Eddie Jones takes the blame for key Wallabies injuries
The Wallabies have been hampered by a number of key injuries - namely to captain Will Skelton and prop Taniela Tupou. Both were injured at training in the run-up to the pool match against Fiji in mid-September.
Skelton suffered a calf strain and Tupou was ruled out with a hamstring problem. The forwards were key to Jones's plan of combining forward power with backline flair in the key Pool C matches against Fiji and Wales - both of which were lost.
"The biggest loss we had in this tournament was losing Taniela and Will in one session and I blame myself for that," Jones told reporters at the team camp last week. "Just didn't get it right, the session. You never know with injuries, you never really know.
"But could we have done that a little bit differently? I keep thinking about that. To minimise the risk of damage, there's just an order of training, and the way you train. I hold my hands up."
But Skelton said the coach wasn't to blame. "You can look at anything, if I had a half an hour more sleep, if I had drunk a litre more water. I think for those things, I'm in control," he said. "Things happen and that's rugby, injuries happen during the week and in games. I (might) have got injured on the weekend against Fiji. It's unfortunate and I guess we've got to move on."
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