Former Fiji fly-half Nicky Little has said referee Matthew Carley ‘melted’ under pressure after the Pacific Islanders were beaten by Wales in a World Cup thriller in Bordeaux.
Warren Gatland’s side got their tournament off to a winning start thanks to a 32-26 success, but it was one they nearly threw away having led by 18 points with 10 minutes to go.
In an astonishing finale, Fiji scored twice through Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge and pounded away in search of a dramatic comeback. Wales conceded four penalties on their own line, but Carley didn’t show another of Gatland’s players a yellow card after earlier sin binning Corey Domachowski.
‘I thought the referee melted and didn’t want to give another yellow card. I’ve not been happy with the referees in general at this World Cup to be honest,’ Little told Mail Sport.
‘I’ve been a bit alarmed with their performances across the tournament. They are missing so much.’ Wales conceded a total of 17 penalties across the 80 minutes but lost only Domachowski for 10 minutes. Fiji’s penalty count was nine, but they lost Lekima Tagitagivalu to the bin.
Fiji were left to reflect on what might have been after narrowly losing to Wales on Sunday night
Former Fiji fly-half Nicky Little (pictured) was frustrated with the officiating of the game
He felt referee Matthew Carley (pictured) ‘melted’ under pressure in the closing stages
Former Samoa ace Dan Leo bemoaned the treatment of his fellow Pacific Island nation on social media.
Ex-England and Lions wing Ugo Monye also questioned Carley’s decision making.
Monye told the BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Daily: ‘In the last quarter, the way the game was managed just didn’t feel fair. They (Fiji) didn’t get things that were owed to them.
‘I just thought some of the refereeing decisions were totally out of kilter.. I’m not one to bang on about referees and just create this media storm because referees are so under the microscope anyway, but at times like this I think you have to be honest.
‘You don’t need to have three or four penalties – two of which were cynical and automatic yellow cards – before you brandish a yellow card. They (Fiji) just didn’t get the law enforced the way in which it should have been done. If I were Simon Raiwalui or the players, I’d be fuming.’ Fiji head coach Raiwalui said: ‘When we were down in the corner we had multiple penalties. It could have been more and we didn’t get a yellow card given against Wales.
Former England wing Ugo Monye was bemused by Carley’s refereeing on Sunday night
Fiji coach Simon Raiwalui (pictured) admitted his side felt like they didn’t get the rub of the green
‘The referees have got a tough job. I respect what they do. There were a couple of occasions where we thought we didn’t get the rub of the green.’ Little also bemoaned the inconsistency in decision-making which has been seen at the World Cup so far. England’s Tom Curry was sent off against Argentina for making head contact with Juan Cruz Mallia, but South Africa’s Jesse Kriel escaped punishment for a similar incident against Scotland after colliding with Jack Dempsey.
‘I’m just stating facts. Wales gave away four penalties on their own line and had only one yellow,’ said Little, who won 71 international caps and played at four World Cups.
‘Fiji were penalised further out and it was a yellow card straight away.
‘In the Scotland and South Africa game there were some calls I was flabbergasted by. The referees need to be better. This is the World Cup. How come they are allowed to make so many mistakes?’
The late drama in Bordeaux shouldn’t detract from the fact Wales were impressive for long periods and that the game was the best of the World Cup to date. Gatland’s side made a mammoth 253 tackles – a record for a World Cup game – as they eventually kept Fiji at bay to record a bonus-point success.
Wales travelled from Bordeaux to Nice on Monday ahead of facing Portugal on the Cote d’Azur on Saturday.
Their fly-half Dan Biggar was named official player of the match on what would have been the birthday of his late mother Liz who passed away in 2021.
‘I think she was looking down on us in the last passage of play,’ said Biggar, referring to the spilled ball from Semi Radradra when a match-winning Fiji try looked certain.
Wales fly-half Dan Biggar (pictured) admitted it was a ‘relief’ to get the win, as he delivered a player of the match display on what would have been the birthday of his late mother
‘I found the game quite difficult because she would have been here making a big weekend of it. I suppose it was extra special. It was at the back of my mind.
‘For me, it was a really tough day. It was a really nice moment to get the result and just a huge amount of relief.’ Biggar admitted the tense end had ‘aged him a few years’ and that ‘it felt like the clock was going backwards’.
He also said Wales had taken inspiration from 14-man England’s opening win over Argentina after they had lost Curry early on.
‘I thought England were absolutely magnificent,’ Biggar said. ‘We spoke about having a little bit of a similar mindset. I think it really helped us watching their game as a team.
‘Results are the only thing that matter in this tournament and we’re off to a good start.’
The brutal nature of the Fiji game saw Wales lock Will Rowlands make 27 tackles on his own as the fitness of Gatland’s players impressed.
Wales reported no serious injuries after Fiji but are poised to make several changes for their second match with Pool C minnows Portugal.