Portugal stun Fiji in huge Rugby World Cup upset, but Fiji still make quarterfinals
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Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse: Portugal 24 (Raffaele Storti, Francisco Fernandes, Rodrigo Marta tries; Samuel Marques 3 con, pen) Fiji 23 (Levani Botia, Mesake Doge tries, Frank Lomani 2 con, 3 pen) HT: 3-3  

Yellow card: Levani Botia (Fiji)

Portugal will be by far the happiest of the teams going home early from the Rugby World Cup.

The Portuguese pulled off a stunner of an upset with a late try followed by a conversion in the dying seconds to beat Fiji 24-23 for their first ever World Cup win and a storming end to their campaign and the tournament's pool stage on Sunday (Monday NZT).

Fiji squeaked through with a losing bonus point to be the last team to make it to the quarterfinalswith Australia being eliminated as a result, but the manner of progression was nowhere near what the Flying Fijians, or the rest of the rugby world, were expecting.

Having twice led, Os Lobos – the Wolves – of Portugal were 23-17 down with two minutes to go and facing another near-miss. Right wing Raffaele Storti picked up from the back of a ruck, went belting down the short side and flicked inside to fellow wing Rodrigo Marta to score and set up a conversion for history.

Two weeks ago at the same stadium in Toulouse, Portugal missed a last-second kick and the chance of a breakthrough win in an 18-18 draw with Georgia.

This time, half-back Samuel Marques stroked it sweetly home.

“It’s incredible. It’s unbelievable," said Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet, a France great who greeted the frenetic finish with a pump of his arm and a huge grin in the coaches box. “They always find resources I never expect. The way they could score, it’s amazing.

“Even if we work a lot to be able to do things like that, they still surprise me after four years. It is an incredible group, an incredible team.”

Marques' clutch kick and the result turned the Rugby World Cup on its head just for a moment, even if it ultimately had no bearing on the final eight teams in the competition.

But tell the Portuguese that it didn’t mean anything. After flyhalf Jeronimo Portela hoofed the ball out to confirm the victory, Portugal’s players leaped into each other’s arms to celebrate their biggest result ever. Players streamed off the bench to join in.

It was 34-year-old Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer’s last game for his country before retirement.

“I can die tomorrow,” he said. “I have retired after this World Cup. To finish like that, it is unbelievable for me. For four years we built (towards) this.”

Fiji will head to a quarterfinal against England and likely be the Rugby World Cup's favorite underdog from here on, but Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui came onto the field afterwards and graciously handed out hugs and congratulations to the Portuguese players to recognise their moment.

Portugal will celebrate all the way home, as will the fans, who roared out “Por-Tu-Gal! Por-Tu-Gal!” for most of the game.

“Congratulations to Portugal, they played really well," Raiwalui said. “Stuck in there once we took the lead. Thought we had it but they scored the try. Fully deserved victory to them.”

Portugal threatened the upset all game, which was helter-skelter from the outset and surprisingly only 3-3 at halftime. Storti missed probably the best chance of the first 40 when he hacked a kick ahead and tried to scoop up the ball while diving but fumbled it on the Fijian try line.

He made up for that as Portugal twice went ahead early in the second half. Storti roared over in the right corner in the 45th after a scorching attack for 10-3, and 38-year-old prop Francisco Fernandes ground over from close range to make it 17-10.

Both times Fiji hit back to level, though flanker Levani Botia to make it 10-10 and then replacement prop Mesake Doge to tie it up again at 17-17.

Doge drove over following a period of play where Fiji's forwards started to gain dominance and it appeared the Portugal challenge had been subdued.

With Fiji rampaging forward in the last 10 minutes, scrumhalf Frank Lomani kicked penalties in the 74th and 76th minutes to push the Fijians to 23-17 and ahead for the first time since the first half. That appeared to be the end of it.

Portugal wasn't done, and Storti set up Portuguese rugby history with his run down the right wing to catch out the Fijian defence. Two defenders finally closed him down, but Marta was on his shoulder to score and Marques was nerveless to make sure this opportunity didn't slip away.

“It is fantastic when you do something that stays forever,” Portugal captain Jose Lima said. "We can say that we did it.”