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The Dragon Round Up: Weekend Report

Most fans have adopted Fiji as their second favourite team at the Rugby World Cup, but Wales fans must surely have mixed feelings.

After all, it’s one thing cheering on the “Flying Fijians” as they throw the ball around, break defences, run in tries from everywhere and fight like terriers at every ruck.

But it’s quite another when an epic victory over Australia suddenly puts a real threat over Wales reaching the quarter-finals, which is exactly what happened at the weekend.

Pool C looked a nice easy job on Saturday after Wales had beaten Portugal to make it two wins from two and a maximum 10 points.

To quote Michael Caine, Fiji were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off. Instead, they’ve blown Pool C sky high.

The result in Saint-Etienne – a thrilling 22-15 victory for the Fijians – was the worst possible outcome for Wales, with Fiji picking up four points and the Aussies gaining a priceless bonus point.

Warren Gatland’s men are likely to need at least a losing bonus point against the Aussies this weekend to avoid being squeezed into third place in the final reckoning.

With their two toughest matches out of the way, Fiji have six points, thanks to their two losing bonus points salvaged against Wales late on.

Two maximums against Georgia and Portugal would give Fiji a total of 16 points.

Should Wales beat the Aussies, they will be expected to top the pool with a probable four wins, if they overcome Georgia.

But if Australia beat Wales and take five points from their game against Portugal, that would give them 15 points.

Should Wales fail to pick up a losing bonus point, the most Wales could muster would be 15 – that could put them out of the tournament as the Wallabies would have won the head-to-head.

Australia coach Eddie Jones said: “”We’re moving on to Wales now.

“This is the best coaching week, best playing week. These are the weeks you remember when you are under the pump quite a lot and you have got to produce a good performance.

“We are starting to set our sights on how we need to play against Wales. The Fiji game, at the start of the game we couldn’t find our rhythm.

“Physically we got a little bit struck by them and that put us on the back foot and we never found our rhythm until maybe the last 20 minutes when we played with a bit more fluency and a bit more like ourselves.

“It’s a harsh learning experience, but one that we will take into the Wales game.”

“We made a load of changes to give boys game-time and also to put them in position to go for selection against Australia. To get the bonus-point in the manner that we did right at the end showed the resilience and trying to find a way to win.”

It was hard to know who looked the happier at the weekend, Fiji fans or those of Cardiff City on Saturday night.

Erol Bulut has a new matchwinner and Cardiff have a new hero after their dramatic derby day win over Swansea City.

Bluebirds manager Bulut has used Ollie Tanner sparingly since the Turkish boss arrived in the capital this summer.

He even revealed after Cardiff’s 2-0 victory on Saturday night that he and the 21-year-old winger have a running joke that the player is better as a substitute than when he starts.

But Tanner scored his first professional goal and made Cardiff’s second as they ended a run of four South Wales derby defeats.

Swansea had only lost four of their previous 12 derbies but after coming up short in Cardiff remain one of only three teams in the Championship yet to have tasted victory this season and are in the relegation zone.

“Ollie Tanner is a good player,” said Bulut.

“He will make mistakes, but I count on him. If he comes from the bench, he gives a better performance than if he starts in the first XI, we have a joke about it.

“I had already seen what he showed today [to keep him around]. One-v-one he is good, coming inside he has a good shot, he can dribble inside, but he’s also good on his right foot and we train with him on it every week.

“We showed our fighting spirit, before this game we created more chances and couldn’t score – [on Saturday] we created less and scored twice and kept a clean sheet.”

Bulut’s Swansea counterpart Michael Duff is still searching for his first win since joining the club this summer.

What has been a disappointing start and initially could be put down to teething problems following Duff’s arrival as head coach in the summer, is now in danger of becoming a full-blown crisis.

Duff has branded the type of football he inherited from previous head coach Russell Martin as “extreme” and sought a more pragmatic style.

“The first goal was always going to be important for two teams struggling for confidence,” said the former Barnsley manager.

“There’s a lack of quality really, which is not unlike us. Every time we passed the ball forwards in the second half, we gave it away. We turned it over far too many times, couldn’t build any momentum. Their subs changed the game, ours haven’t.

Swansea travel to Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night, with Duff clearly now under real pressure to deliver a first league victory of the season sooner rather than later.

“There’s no question,” he added. “We need to win a game. I’m not going to sit up here and try to pull the wool over people’s eyes and say we’re not under pressure and all that sort of stuff.

“Of course you’re under pressure because it’s a winning business. We’re not going to make excuses. The facts are we need to win a game.”

Wrexham moved up to four place in League Two with a comfortable 3-0 victory at home to Grimsby Town.

Newport County are back in 12th after being held to a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade, where County defender Ryan Delaney was sent off for a second yellow card.

Elsewhere, former Wales striker Natasha Harding announced her retirement at the age of 34, while the women’s Genero Adran Premier kicked off with an entertaining 3-3 draw between Wrexham and Swansea City.

A very tough, demanding and problem-filled Vuelta a Espana for Geraint Thomas finished at the weekend with the Welsh star coming home in 31st place.

Thomas crossed the line one hour, 47 minutes and 59 seconds behind tour winner Sepp Kruss, with Jonas Vingegaard in second and Primoz Roglic in third.

Wales’ former Tour de France winner suffered two falls and the regular loss of Ineos Grenadiers teammates throughout an eventful Vuelta.

Thomas said: “We’ve tried to enjoy ourselves but it’s been tough at times, especially for me, when you go to your room, it’s tough. It’s hard, and you think, ‘what am I doing?’

“But we’ve tried to stay positive and we’ve certainly committed. You can’t say we’ve not tried. It’s just unfortunate that we’ve not quite got the results that we’ve deserved. As I’ve said on my podcast, life’s not fair.”

The first Welsh hockey team to play in the English men’s Premier Division found it tough going in their opening game.

Cardiff and Met hosted Southgate at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens on Saturday evening after winning promotion last season.

But the game ended in a 4-1 defeat for Cardiff, proving they will need to improve to live with the best.

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