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0844 847 2013
A Uate x3, K Naiqama, T Sims, K Sims
T McCarthy, D Blanch, J Hasson
W Naiqama x4
Attendance: 8,872 Official: Venue: Spotland Stadium, Rochdale
Ref: P. Bentham T Judge: M. Craven T Judge: A. Martin Video Ref: H. Perenara
Man of the Match: Kevin Naiqama
Joe Smith at Spotland
A record-breaking Spotland Stadium crowd witnessed Fiji overcome Ireland 32-14, as Akuila Uate’s hat-trick put the Bati into contention for progression from Group A.
After Fiji’s devastating start, which threatened to take the game away from Mark Aston’s Ireland, the Wolfhounds responded strongly until the Bati found a second gear to pull away, thanks mainly to Uate’s three scores.
Rochdale’s first-ever Rugby League World Cup fixture – in any sport – ensured an official sell out at Spotland Stadium, with a large portion of the crowd filled by passionate Fijians, whose vociferous backing of their side set in motion the overtone of the night’s match.
Fiji’s starting thirteen featured three brothers in Ashton, Tariq and Korbin Sims, though it was another pair of Bati siblings – Kevin and Waisale Ligani Naiqama – who really set the Fijian’s Rugby League World Cup 2013 campaign in motion.
Ireland just about made it through a savage first set as the Bati instantly imparted pressure on their opponents, who were saved early on by some loose Fijian handling, thanks to the greasy conditions left by the day’s passing rains.
The Bati soon adapted, however, scoring the first try after ten minutes following a slick passing move that spanned the width of the field. Full-back Kevin Naiqama offloaded to Uate, who touched down in the corner.
Just two-and-a-half minutes later Fiji scored their second. This time Naiqama turned try-scorer as the Bati benefitted from a lucky deflection – James Storer’s kick hitting a green shirt and falling to Aaron Groom, who simply laid off Kevin Naiqama to dance through Ireland’s re-grouping defence.
Kevin Naiqama was the epitome of the Fijian game in the first fifteen minutes, as he intercepted with Ireland enjoying some rare territory, making 40 metres as the Bati were unlucky not to score a third try in quick succession – the Irish defence this time stood firm, holding aloft a number of Bati shirts to prevent the ball’s grounding.
When Ireland were finally able to spend some time deep in Fijian territory, they met one of the most aggressive defences that RLWC2013 is likely to see. Time and again white shirts flew into the Irish attackers, resulting eventually in referee Phil Bentham issuing Fiji a full team warning, such was their ferocity in the tackle.
Ireland eventually got just reward for continually hammering on the white Bati door, as Tyrone McCarthy finished a drawn-out move in the corner for the Wolfhounds, who showed their Fijian counterparts that they too can dish out a physical game.
The electric atmosphere inside a packed Spotland Stadium was feeding off a high-voltage display on the field, as both sides put their all into a tie from which the winners would be in pole position to qualify from Group A.
Eloni Vunakece’s high tackle on Rory Kostjasyn earned him ten minutes in the bin just before half time and Ireland, finishing the half strongly after acclimatising to Fiji’s physicality, nearly capitalised through Damien Blanch, though the ball escaped the Catalan Dragons wing as the try line beckoned.
As half time came and went so did another heavy downpour making the surface something of a skid pan. Fiji duly ditched the delicate handling which featured in their attacks during the first period for an all-out bulldozing approach, which paid dividends instantly as Tariq Sims finished a scrappy try.
The Bati’s fourth was much easier on the eye. Uate finished in the corner again to round off a move that mirrored his side’s first score, a lovely sweeping move from left-to-right, as Fiji showed why they are looking for a second consecutive World Cup semi-final.
Korbin Sims added the fifth Fijian try not long after, the Newcastle Knights prop out-jumping Ireland’s defence to pluck the ball from the rainy night and touch down, to the delight of the strong, and noisy, Fijian presence inside the stadium.
There was still time for Uate to grab his hat-trick. The Newcastle Knights winger again finished a Bati move in the right corner as the teams started to tire after a brutal match.
Ireland, however, finished with a flurry of tries as Damieb Blanch was first able to reduce the gap between the sides, latching on to Scott Grix’s deflected kick before James Hasson squeezed through a to touch down in the game’s last play.
Fiji play Australia next up at Langtree Park, St Helens, on the same day that Ireland face England at an already-sold out John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield.
TA: Try assists
MT: Marker tackles
MI: Missed tackles
TB: Tackle busts
AT: Attacking kicks
AG: Av gain
CB: Clean break
DR: Run from dummy half
FT: Forty twenty
MG: Missed goals