Vereniki Goneva scored four tries as Fiji beat a willing Namibian team 49-25 in their opening match at the World Cup at the Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.
The victory was a triumph of Fijian flair over Namibian resilience, but the final margin did not do justice to efforts of team from the Southwest corner of Africa.
Fiji had to endure an early first-half onslaught and then a second surge after the half-time break, despite wrapping up the bonus point in the first half in a pulsating game which briefly threatened one of the tournament's great upsets.
The two-time quarterfinalists were forced to defend for much of the match as Namibia sniffed their first World Cup victory.
Despite their defeat, Namibia - handed a World Cup record 142-0 thrashing by Australia just four years ago - enjoyed their highest score and closest result in four appearances at the game's showpiece.
And Namibia, orchestrated by superb flyhalf Theuns Kotze, took great satisfaction from keeping tiring Fiji on the defence for much of the second half in an engrossing spectacle at Rotorua International Stadium.
"I'm very proud of how the guys came back, it's typical of our character," said Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt.
"If our defence was a little bit better, sharper at certain stanzas, we would have been in with a chance."
It was the boot of Kotze against Fiji's try-scoring genius in the first half as the Namibian flyhalf, starting just his second Test, nailed three drop-goals in just four minutes to put the Pacific islanders on the back foot.
But Sevens specialists Fiji dazzled with the ball in hand and Goneva rampaged down the right wing for a first-half hat-trick alongside a lone effort from second-row forward Leone Nakarawa to make it 32-15 at half-time.
Namibia had denied Fiji possession for long periods of the first half and they burst through for a long-threatened first try after the break, as forward Heinz Koll's neat dummy ended a move from deep within their own territory.
Fiji's Goneva hit back with his fourth score, but Namibia ran in their second through fullback Chrysander Botha on 56 minutes, setting up a spell of heavy pressure with the scores at 39-25.
However, Fiji's France-based centre Seremaia Bai put the game effectively out of reach with a penalty before Naipolioni Nalaga crossed in the dying minutes.
Fiji face defending champions South Africa in Wellington next Saturday, before playing Samoa and Wales in Group D.
Man of the match: You can always count on Namibia captain Jacques Burger to put in a big effort, while centres Danie van Wyk and Piet van Zyl showed their class, with flyhalf Theuns Kotze Namibia's best player on the day. As can be expected the Fijian forwards - like lock Leone Nakarawa and flank Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu - showed the same skills and willingness to run with ball in hand that you get from their backs. However, you can't look past the finishing ability of Vereniki Goneva and his four tries - even if some of them were set up by his teammates.
Moment of the match: Obviously there were four great tries by Vereniki Goneva, but we have opted for those three first-half drop-goals by Namibian flyhalf Theuns Kotze - they set the tone for the match and emphasised the difference between the two sides.
Villain of the match: Nobody. The bit of niggle was not nasty.
Tries: Goneva 4, Nakarawa, Nalaga
Cons: Bai 5
Pens: Bai 3
Tries: Koll, Botha
Pens: Kotze 2
DGs: Kotze 3
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Waisea Sedre Luveniyali, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Netani Edward Talei, 7 Mala Ravulo, 6 Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Sunia Koto, 17 Waisea Nailago, 18 Seko Kalou, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21 Albert James Vulivuli, 22 Iliesa Lomani Rakuka Keresoni.
Namibia: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Danie van Wyk, 12 Piet van Zyl, 11 Conrad Marais, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7 Jacques Burger (captain), 6 Tinus du Plessis, 5 Nico Esterhuyse, 4 Heinz Koll, 3 Raoul Larson, 2 Hugo Horn, 1 Johnnie Redelinghuys.
Replacements: 16 Bertus O'Callaghan, 17 Jane du Toit, 18 Pieter Jan van Lill, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Ryan de la Harpe, 21 Darryl de la Harpe, 22 Llewellyn Winkler.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Jérôme Garces (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
AFP & rugby365.com
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