Ireland 35 Fiji 17
TWO first-half tries from openside Nick Timoney inspired Ireland to what was an extremely professional, if uninspiring, win over an indisciplined Fijian side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Fijian out-half Teti Tela pulled a 40m penalty attempt left of the posts in the 3rd minute, but the Irish reprieve was a brief one, as less than a minute later the Pacific islanders struck for the game’s opening try.
Fiji put the ball through the hands to release speedy winger Vinaya Habosi down the left and when he fed the ball back inside to the supporting centre Waisea Nayacalevu he had the simple task of putting his centre partner Kalaveti Ravouvou away to run under the posts unopposed for an excellent score.
Ireland took a while to get going, but they eventually got themselves on the scoreboard in the 15th minute, when openside Nick Timoney collected a deft pop pass from Tadhg Beirne from the base of a ruck to burrow over from close range.
Kieran Treadwell thought he had scored four minutes later only to be denied by a superb try-saving tackle by Levani Botia, who got his hand under the ball beyond his own try-line, but when the ref went back for an earlier infringement and sin-binned tight head Manasa Saulo, Ireland immediately capitalised, with Nick Timoney scoring again, this time at the back of the resultant rolling maul.
Fiji responded in the 23rd minute with a penalty from Manasa Saulo to make it 14-10, but Ireland were in again just two minutes later when Robert Baloucoune easily scored in the right corner after collecting a huge looping pass from Jamison Gibson-Park after the pack had punched huge holes in the Fijian midfield.
Ireland were clearly attempting to wear down Fiji with a structured, set piece-orientated approach to the game, and while they dominated territory and possession they failed to score again in the opening half, with the score being 21-10 at halftime.
Any hope Fiji had ended in the 45th minute when blindside flanker Albert Tuisue was issued a straight red card for a shoulder directly to the head of Joey Carbery. The Irish out-half had to leave the pitch as a result of the hit, meaning Innishannon native Jack Crowley replaced him to make his international debut at just 22 years of age.
Second-row Api Ratuniyarawa was then yellow carded for collapsing the Irish maul in the 51st minute, although it took almost the entire 10-minute period with 15 against 13 for Ireland to capitalise, when Craig Casey put Mack Hansen away in the left corner after the Irish scrum had obliterated their counterparts near the Fijian line. Crowley added the extras from the touchline for his first international points.
We got some long-awaited Fijian flair in the 64th minute when a superb Setareki Tuicuvu offload put winger Jiuta Wainiqolo in the clear and he fed Simione Kuruvoli to run it in under the posts for a brilliant try.
The expected flood of Irish tries never materialised, with Ireland having to wait until the 75th minute for their next score, which came from a Cian Healy drive from close range after a huge carry from Max Deegan had gotten them within touching distance of the Fijian line.
Carbery (3 cons), Crowley (2 cons), Timoney (2 tries), Baloucoune, Hansen, Healy (1 try each).
Tela (1 con, 1 pen), Volavola (1 con), Ravouvou, Kuruvoli (1 try each).
O'Brien; Baloucoune, Henshaw, McCloskey, Hansen; Carbery, Gibson-Park; Loughman, Herring, Furlong (capt); Treadwell, Beirne; Doris, Timoney, Conan.
Ringrose for Henshaw (4), Crowley for Carbery (46), O’Toole, Prendergast and Casey for Furlong, Treadwell and Gibson-Park (50), Deegan for Doris (60), Healy for Loughman (62), Sheehan for Herring (72), Gibson-Park for O’Brien (77).
Tuicuvu; Wainiqolo, Nayacalevu (capt), Ravouvou, Habosi; Tela, Lomani; Mawi, Matavesi, Saulo, Nasilasila, Rotuisolia, Tuisue, Botia, Mata.
Ratuniyarawa for Nasilasila (24), Atalifo for Tuisue (27), Tuisue for Atalifo (30), Volavola for Tela (44), Kuruvoli for Lomani (47), Dyer for Botia (55), Natave and Cocagi for Mawi and Ravouvou (59), Atalifo for Saulo (63), Dolokoto for Matavesi (76).
Mathieu Raynal (FFR)