WORLD CUP: Fiji advance to QF
Italy put up a gallant effort going blow for blow with the Fijians for most of the match before try-scoring extraordinaire, Suliasi Vunivalu, bagged a hat-trick in the space of 10 minutes to blow the Italians off the park.
Being two of the most passionate teams in the World Cup, it’s no surprise tempers flared in the first half after two players got sin-binned for unsportsmanlike conduct involving Fijian star Jarryd Hayne and Italian hooker Joseph Tramontana.
Italy showed that they meant business from the get-go, opting for a short kick off to get the game underway.
Big hits and strong running highlighted a physical opening 10 minutes from both sides as the Azzurri controlled the pace of the game and limited Fiji from unleashing their attacking flair.
In the 12th minute of the match, Italy were dealt an early blow when Jayden Walker was sin-binned for a preventing Marcelo Montoya from a quick play-the-ball after he ran 80 meters downfield.
With Italy down to 12 men, Fiji sensed an opportunity to attack and started launching repeated raids on the Italians goal line.
But after multiple efforts, Fiji finally forced their way over the try line for what could have been the opening points of the match, before the try was disallowed by the video referee due to an obstruction.
But despite being a man down it would be Italy who opened the scoring after Terry Campese showed age doesn’t matter, setting up Josh Mantellato in the corner after a pin-point cut out pass.
Just eight minutes later, Mantellato went from hero to villain after he failed to clean up a kick near his own goal line allowing Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama to clean up the scraps and get their first four-pointer of the match.
With the scores now sitting at 6-4, the passion from either side started to boil over as things got heated eight minutes out from halftime. An alleged punch thrown in a tackle by Italy rake Joe Tramontana, caused tensions to spill out over the sideline.
Following the incident Tramontana, was given 10 minutes in the sin bin to cool off while Fiji star Jarryd Hayne, was also sent from the field for getting involved.
With both sides down a player and the halftime siren seconds away from sounding around GIO Stadium, Fiji bagged an important four-pointer after Henry Raiwalui crossed over with seconds to spare to give Fiji a 12-4 advantage at halftime.
At the start of the second half, Italy pulled off close to the try of the tournament as centre Nathan Milone, scored an amazing try which involved two flick passes, two kicks and one lucky bounce to put them within two points of the lead.
But as it looked like Italy could pull off an amazing underdog victory, the class of the Fiji side shown through as they ran in three tries in 10 minutes to blow the Azzurri off the park much to the delight of the Fiji contingent at the game.
26 unanswered points in the second inflated the scoreline, which didn’t reflect the effort put in by the Italians.
Fiji were too good on the night and will progress through to the quarter-finals for the third straight World Cup after finishing the game winners, 38-10.
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter