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Saturday, October 16, 1999 Published at 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK

France edge into last eight

France's Christophe Dominici races over the Fijian line for an injury time try

France 28-19 Fiji

France survived a huge scare at the hands of Fiji before finally clinching the victory in Toulouse that gives them top spot in Pool C and takes them into the quarter-finals.

Beaten Fiji, who caused problems for the hosts throughout, now face a daunting play-off against England at Twickenham next Wednesday.

But France will not relish the prospect of possibly taking on Ireland in Dublin, after producing another stuttering display.

[ image: French flanker Olivier Magne surges on, watched by team-mate Abel Benazzi]
French flanker Olivier Magne surges on, watched by team-mate Abel Benazzi
Raphael Ibanez's team did not show too many signs of the flowing, champagne rugby that is their hallmark until the very last minute, when Christophe Dominici finished of a fantastic counter-attack under the posts to wrap up the win.

The crucial score though was a controversial penalty try 10 minutes from time which referee Paddy O'Brien - who had a poor game - awarded after a period of pressure on the Fijian lines, even though French forwards seemed to have infringed.

Christophe Juillet scored France's only try before the break, while Richard Dourthe kicked 13 and Christophe Lamaison added five more.

The heroes for Fiji, who helped take them to the brink of a famous victory were Alfred Uluinayau, the scorer of a wonderful try from full-back, and fly-half Nicki Little, who kicked 14 points.

Inauspicious opening

France began in shaky fashion, with a series of dropped balls and knock-ons.

[ image: Stephane Castaignede looks to launch a French counter-attack]
Stephane Castaignede looks to launch a French counter-attack
They missed a glorious chance after just four minutes when Richard Dourthe delayed his pass and Viliame Satala was able to tackle Christophe Dominici short of the line.

And when they found themselves in threatening situations, further errors from Ugo Mola and Philippe Bernat-Salles gifted possession back to Fiji.

Dourthe and Little exchanged penalties before the game swung France's way after 21 minutes, when scrumhalf Stephane Castaignede fed Juillet - and the flanker drove over the line from close in, taking two Fijians with him.

Dourthe converted to make it 10-3.

O'Brien infuriated both sides in the first half with a series of questionable decisions - including ruling out one try for each team after first appearing to award them.

Fijian fightback

Fiji burst back into the contest with a spirited performance at the start of the second half.

Little, who was preferred to sevens legend Waisale Serevi, pulled the score back to 13-6 with an early penalty.

Uluinayau then brought Fiji right back into the game with a stunning run from the halfway line to touch down under the posts, charging through two weak French attemps to bring him down. Little converted to make it 13-13.

Little then scored two penalties in eight minutes to take Fiji into a commanding 19-13 lead.

With the crowd becoming increasingly restless, France at last launched a concerted period of pressure on the Fiji lines.

They were awarded a series of penalties and each time opted to scrum. Fiji, overpowered, kept collapsing and O'Brien blew for a penalty try - despite an apparent French offence.

With two minutes left Lamaison slotted a penalty to make it 23-19.

Dominici then put the gloss on the result by crossing over after a fluid move that for once saw France's backs and forwards linking to devastating effect.


France: Mola, Bernat-Salle, Dourthe, N'Tamack, Dominici, Lamaison, Castaignede, Califano, Ibanez, Tournaire, Benazzi, Pelous, Lievremont, Magne, Juillet. Replacements: Garbajosa, Desbrosse, Costes, Brouzet, De Villiers, Dal Maso, Galthie.

Fiji: Uluinayau, Lasagavibau, Satala, Sotutu, Bari, Little, Rauluni, Rouse, Smith, Vetayaki, Raiwalui, Katalau, Tabua, S. Tawake, Mocelutu. Replacements: Raulini, Serevi, Nakauta, Sewabu, I. Tawake, Rasila, Naituvau.

Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand)

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