Wales weathered a Fijian storm to edge a U20 World Rugby Championship thriller and finish the pool stages on a high.
Gareth Williams’ kept their heads to emerge victorious from a breathless encounter against a Fiji side packed full of lethal attacking weapons.
The lead changed hands four times but scores from Tommy Reffell, Dafydd Buckland and Tomi Lewis were enough for a first-half advantage.
Captain Dewi Lake secured the bonus-point as Fiji kept on coming back, but Ben Warren’s try gave Wales breathing space before Ioan Davies secured victory.
Wales will now face New Zealand in the play-offs to determine who will finish fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth after their second win from three Pool A matches.
Wales’ power looked like it was going to be too much for the Fijians to handle. Some early pressure resulted in a penalty which Cai Evans sent to the corner. The pack remained patient as Fijian forwards splintered off from all around them, and Reffell broke off at the perfect moment to score from close range.
But the flying Fijians lived up to their name to take the lead with a stunning score after 12 minutes. Outside-half Simione Kuruvoli found Laisa Droasese with a deft kick through and the rangy centre charged downfield. All he had to do was find lock Taniela Ramasibana on his shoulder for the try, before Kuruvoli added the conversion to snatch the advantage.
Wales hit back moments later after a string of scrums yielded a penalty and Buckland used some quick thinking and fast feet to take a tap penalty and snipe over the line. Williams’ men were behind again though when captain Taniela Soqonawasaloa charged through Jac Price’s attempted tackle in midfield and sprinted to score at the posts.
Fiji No. 8 Eparama Sailo should have seen red seven minutes before half time, but he was lucky to only see yellow. Sailo charged into full-back Ioan Davies with his shoulder and made contact with his head at speed. After much deliberation referee Pali Deluca decided that the offence was only worthy of a yellow, but Wales still made Fiji pay.
Evans landed a long-range penalty to regain the lead, before a stunning finish from Lewis gave Wales an eight point cushion at the break.
The Scarlets wing received a bouncing pass with hardly any room to play with, but he half beat his marker before getting back to his feet, hurdling another defender and grounding the ball at the corner. Evans converted from the touchline to give Wales a 22-14 lead at half-time.
The breathless game went up a gear in a thrilling second-half. Fiji moved back to within a point 10 minutes in when full-back Osea Natoga broke through after a free-flowing move and sent Rasaku over at the corner.
Wales were denied an immediate response by the TMO after Dewi Lake looked to have crashed over, but he got his score moments later to seal the bonus-point.
More high octane stuff got Fiji back in it when scrum-half Mesake Kurisaru gave a no-look pass to Kuruvoli who jinked before finding Rasaku in support for his second. Kuruvoli converted to make it a game again. Lewis was denied a second try moments later when he dragged a foot in touch, but the brawn of Warren gave Wales breathing space again when he burrowed over. Evans was on target again to make it 36-28.
The game was finally wrapped up when Deon Smith received a pinpoint cross-kick from Evans and sent Davies over for a well deserved score.
And Evans brought his personal tally to 14 points with one final penalty to close out a thrilling encounter 44-28 and book a playoff clash with the Baby Blacks.