Fiji survive Namibia fright
A four-try haul to winger Vereniki Goneva, three in the first half, ensured Fiji opened their rugby World Cup campaign with a comfortable 49-25 win over Namibia at the Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.
A beautiful spring day and a hard surface had the 10 000-strong crowd, many clutching Fijian flags, expecting an entertaining game and they were not disappointed.
Namibia played their part in the entertaining game, with flyhalf Theuns Kotze opening the scoring with a booming penalty kick from 56 metres in just the second minute.
But it was Goneva that got the crowd excited when he crossed for his first try in the fifth minute, which inside centre Seremaia Bai converted.
Fiji bought some typical physicality to the game, with their forwards driving the African team backwards in the tackle for much of the game.
But Kotze capitalised on his side's territorial advantage in the first half with three well-taken dropgoals in the 10th, 12th and 14th minutes to edge his team ahead 12-7.
Namibia had only landed one dropgoal, against France, in three previous tournaments.
Fiji quickly responded to the Namibian threat, first with Bai landing a penalty in the 16th minute and then lock Leone Nakarawa crossing for the team's second try after flyhalf Waisea Luveniyali stormed 35 metres down field.
Goneva grabbed his second try in the 19th minute following a bullocking 40-metre run from fellow tryscorer Nakarawa and sealed his hat-trick just before the break to give his side a 32-15 lead.
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Namibia abandoned their conservative game plan in the second half with centre Danie Van Wyk making a scintillating break, which broke down near the Fiji line.
The Africans quickly recycled the ball and lock Heinze Koll was able to dot down two minutes into the second half.
Man of the match Goneva had his fourth try 10 minutes later and joined Fijian Viliami Satala as the team's most prolific tryscorer in a World Cup match.
His fellow winger Naipolioni Nalaga scored the game's final try in the dying minutes to blow the scoreline out.
"The boys have been eager to get this game over and done with and now all the cobwebs and emotions are out of the way we are looking forward to next week (against South Africa)," Fiji coach Sam Domoni said in a televised interview.
Namibia never gave up and won plenty of fans with their tenacious approach, which saw them denied twice by the television match official.
"We made some silly mistakes in the first half and let some easy tries in but I am very proud of the way the guys came back and it is typical of our character," Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt said.
"I think if our defence was a little bit sharper we would have been in with a chance."
Namibia - Tries: Heinz Koll, Chrysander Botha. Penalties: Theuns Kotze (2); Drop Goal: Kotze (3)
Fiji - Tries: Verniki Goneva(4), Leone Nakarwa, Napolini Nalaga. Conversions: Seremaia Bai (3). Penalties: Bai(3)