Fiji caused a major upset at the World Cup being played in France when they defeated Australia 22-15 in their group match.
It was not just Fiji’s first win against Australia in the World Cup, but their first of any sort at all since they beat them by two points at the SCG way back in 1954. Given that, the surprising thing was Australia never looked close to winning this one.
You can see the highlights.
I will not try to explain the rules of rugby, except that scoring a touchdown (also known as a ‘try’) gets you five points. If it is followed by a conversion, you get a further two points. A penalty goal or a drop goal gets you three points.
But the tournament has an interesting scoring system. It gives four points for a win, two points for a tie, and zero points for a loss. But to encourage teams to try to get points by scoring tries (which are more exciting) instead of penalty goals, a team gets a bonus point if it scores four or more tries in a game. But even more interesting is that a losing team can get a bonus point if the margin of their defeat is seven points or less. So in the case of the Wales-Fiji game that Wales won 32-26, Fiji got two points even though they lost: one point for scoring four tries and another for losing by just six points.
There are three teams from the central Polynesian archipelago region among the twenty playing in the tournament and they represent by far the nations with the smallest populations. Fiji has about 900,000, Samoa has about 200,000, and Tonga has just 100,000. That they can manage to field teams that can compete at the top level with countries that have far greater populations says something about the quality of their rugby programs. I noticed that some of the other teams also had players with Polynesian names on their squads, that further shows the strength of the Polynesian rugby traditions.