Fiji v Samoa Highlights

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Akuila Uata scores hat-trick for Pacific Islanders as Ireland now need miracle to reach knockout stages.

Ireland 14 Fiji 32: Fiji effectively ended Ireland’s World Cup dream for the second time after out-muscling them in a bruising Group A match at a packed Spotland.

Winger Akuila Uate, whose last trip to England was with Australia for the 2011 Four Nations Series, scored two tries in Fiji’s 30-14 win over the Irish in the semi-final qualifier on the Gold Coast in 2008 and went one better on Monday night with a hat-trick.

But the foundations for the Bati’s 32-14 victory was laid by a dominant pack which thrilled the bulk of the sell-out crowd of 8,872 in Rochdale, which boasts the biggest Fijiian expatriate community outside London.

The Fijians’ display sent out a message to both England and Australia, whose coaches Steve McNamara and Tim Sheens were in the crowd, that they will be no pushovers in the remaining group games.

Ireland, the 500-1 tournament outsiders, were in touch at half-time when they trailed 12-4 but they conceded four second-half tries to suffer an emphatic defeat and will now need to beat England in Huddersfield on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

The deeply-religious Fijians went into a huddle before kick-off to sing a hymn but there was nothing angelic about their play as they tore into the Irish from the kick-off.

The physical onslaught was led by the Sims brothers, who made up half the starting pack and laid the platform for the quicksilver backs to show their pace and class with two tries in a four-minute spell.

Uate produced a strong finish to open the scoring on nine minutes and Ireland had barely recovered when full-back Kevin Naiqama beat two flat-footed defenders to cross for a second.

Centre Wes Naiqama converted his brother’s try and the Fijians would have been further ahead had veteran skipper Petero Civoniceva managed to get the ball down but he was held on his back over the line.

The Pacific Islanders threatened to run away with the game at that stage but the introduction of Manly Sea Eagles forward James Hassan for his debut injected some much-needed resolve into the Irish ranks.

Indiscipline then crept into the Fijians’ play and Ireland took advantage to pull back a try through second rower Tyrone McCarthy on 23 minutes.

That gave Aston’s men the encouragement they needed and they could have drawn level had second rower Dave Allen managed to take Scott Grix’s pass in a try-scoring position.

The chance was lost and Ireland were unable to take advantage of the sin-binning of replacement Eloni Vunakece for persistent infringements six minutes before the interval.

Naiqama stretched Fiji’s lead to 12-4 on the stroke of half-time with a penalty and there was no way back for Ireland when second rower Tariq Sims went over for a third try after Grix had failed to take Aaron Groom’s high kick.

The floodgates opened as Uate completed his hat-trick and loose forward Korbin Sims also touched down and Naiqama took his goal tally to four from seven attempts.

Ireland lost Grix with a leg injury that could see him miss out on the clash with England on his home ground, but they produced a late flurry that gave the scoreline some respect.

Winger Damien Blanch went over at the corner four minutes from the end and, in the final move of the match, Hassan forced his way over for a richly-deserved try to which Pat Richards added the goal.

Victory for rugby league

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 18:49

THE clinical and powerful Fiji Bati victory over Ireland and close encounters between the other nations in the Rugby League World Cup, is something unique that you will never get out of rugby union.

The free movement of players from one nation to the other and availability of Australia National Rugby League players to their origins help make the game competitive.

So it would not be surprising in the next couple of tournaments, in the next decade, that the strength of teams will even up and higher competitions witnessed and rugby league close the gap on union.

The last thing we need is for the Australian Rugby League to monopolise the international organisation and change the rules, like the tier one nations did with International Rugby Board, because they dominated the committee.

But we should not anticipate or fear such monopoly as rugby league is trying to promote the game to other parts of the world.

The way they are going the game will certainly create a big following as the fans have flocked to watch the games and millions witness it over the worldwide media.

Fiji Bati skipper Petero Civoniceva may have aged but he showed yesterday that he still had it in his heart, bones and muscles.

He may have lost some of the vims and whims of youth, yet he showed the famous big strides that almost got him a try but the referee was not able to get a clear view of the ball being grounded.

If it was rugby union, he would not have been eligible to play for Fiji for he has represented Australia before and would have wasted away in his Queensland home watching the action by television.

So as three-try Akuila Uate. We would not have been able to witness those three beautiful wing tries and that giant left step and wriggle to outmuscle four Irish defenders. He had played for Australia too.

In union former Wallaby Ilivasi Tabua played for Australia in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and was able to return and represent Fiji to the 1999 RWC in France as they had not such rules then.

Nowadays, we have players such as Sitiveni Sivivatu and Joe Rokocoko who could have offered more rugby service for their country of birth had they been eligible and prevent the embarrassing losses Fiji had in the 2011 RWC.

The Super Rugby competition is also selective along the same lines giving preferences to Kiwi players who want to play for the All Blacks rather than other national representatives.

The NRL has no such restrictions.

The Fiji Bati win yesterday may not be Fiji's last. Australia and England are not unbeatable and all the Fijians need to do is to tighten up on discipline and not give away any penalties.

The Irish may have pricked the Fijian nerve and caused them to lose concentration with the high tackles and emotions were boiling over.

'O keitou qori,' a Fijian fan watching television said as the high tackles came. Well ginger-haired giant Eloni Vunakece became the scapegoat and got a yellow card after final warning on both teams was made by the men in control.

One of the welcome surprises was the kicking games of Aaron Groom and Alipate Noilea.

They hoisted bombs in the air which caught the Irish flatfooted and this led to tries.

The first bomb came to Noilea who made a backpass for Tariq Sims to go over for the third try while Korbin Sims outjumped everyone else, including his brother, to score following a bounce from a high kick.

The Fiji Bati victory was special for residents of Rochdale, the origin of Fiji rugby league and the tries and victory will definitely be remembered for a long time.

Go Fiji Bati Go!


Kameli Rakoko  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013  |  Fiji Times

Man of the match

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 18:36

KEVIN Naiqama produced a super performance on his Rugby League World Cup debut to spearhead The Vodafone Fiji Bati side to a quarter-final spot.

The younger of the Naiqama brothers was named, man of the match following a splendid performance at last man down during the 32-14 victory over Ireland at Spotland Stadium yesterday.

He scored a try, set up two of Akuila Uate's three tries, ran more than 100meters on attack and sparked Fiji's attack when in possession.

The Newcastle Knights fullback said they needed the win to boost their performance at the RLWC. He said his teammates were anxious for the game especially playing in a full packed stadium at Rochdale.

"It was definitely an important win," he told BBC after the game.

"We have been waiting a long time for this game and the boys were very anxious to play. I'm just glad we got the result because the guys played their hearts out.

"The people of Rochdale were great with their support and we thank them for that."

Naiqama made his debut for Fiji in 2009. He played with Uate and Korbin Sims for the Knights.

Fiji's head coach Rick Stone is the assistant coach for the Knights.

Fiji plays the Kangaroos in its next game on Sunday at 9am.


Emoni Narawa  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013  | Fiji Times


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