Portugal pulls off Rugby World Cup stunner, but Fiji advances in storming end to pool stage
TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Portugal pulled off a Rugby World Cup stunner to beat Fiji 24-23 with a try two minutes from the end and a match-winning conversion for a storming finish to the tournament's pool stage on Sunday.
Fiji was the last team to qualify for the quarterfinals with a losing bonus point, but the manner of progression was nowhere near what the Flying Fijians, or the rest of the rugby world, were expecting.
It was Portugal's first ever Rugby World Cup win and came in the last game of its second World Cup appearance.
Left wing Rodrigo Marta scored the 78th-minute try that turned the tournament on its head just for a moment, even if the result had no bearing on the final eight teams left in the competition.
But tell the Portuguese that it didn't meant anything. After flyhalf Jeronimo Portela hoofed the ball out to confirm the victory, Portugal's players leaped into each other's arms to celebrate the biggest result in the history of their team.
Portugal threatened the upset all game.
It twice went ahead earlier in the second half when right wing Raffaele Storti went over in the 45th after a scorching attack for 10-3 and veteran prop Francisco Fernandes ground over from close range to make it 17-10.
Both times Fiji hit back to level, first though flanker Levani Botia to make it 10-10 and then replacement prop Mesake Doge to tie it up again at 17-17.
Scrumhalf Frank Lomani kicked two late penalties to push Fiji to 23-17 and ahead for the first time since the first half. That appeared to be the end of it.
But Portugal wasn't done, and Storti set up Portuguese rugby history when he picked up from a ruck and burst down the short side to catch the Fijians short. He flipped inside for Marta to score.
Portugal scrumhalf Samuel Marques nervelessly stroked the conversion through from right of the poles.
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