Winger Akuila Uate scored three tries and had another disallowed as Fiji ran riot over Ireland 32-14 in the Rugby League World Cup at their home away from home on Monday.
Rochdale was the town where the first Fijians arrived to play rugby league in England in 1961 and with backing from most of the sellout crowd of 8,800 at Spotland Stadium, this year’s squad treated them to six tries and some bone-rattling defense.
Ireland scored two tries in the last three minutes when the result was already beyond doubt, but they were generally outplayed.
The result put Fiji, semi-finalists in 2008, on course for the quarter-finals. The top three from Group A, which includes Australia and England, advance.
Australia and England coaches Tim Sheens and Steve McNamara were in the stands and they would have been impressed, especially Sheens with his former Kangaroo wing, Uate.
Uate opened and closed Fiji’s scoring. He dragged two Ireland players over the line with him in the ninth minute, took another setup pass from fullback Kevin Naiqama for his second in the 64th and bulldozed through four opponents for his third in the 73rd.
Naiqama scored the second try in the 13th minute after James Storer’s sliced chip rebounded off an Ireland player.
However, Fiji then had two tries disallowed on review and only conceded their first points after six minutes of sustained Ireland pressure. Second-rower Tyrone McCarthy finally broke through from dummy half.
However, even with second row Eloni Vunakece yellow-carded for persistent fouls, Fiji still scored, adding a penalty by Waisale Ligani Naiqama to take a 12-4 lead into halftime.
Rain began during the interval, but Fiji brushed that off, too.
Ireland dropped a high kick, standoff Alipate Noilea scooped it up, spun out of a tackle and offloaded with a reverse flick for Tariq Sims to score. Uate crossed for his second, then Korbin Sims jumped higher than his brother Tariq to catch and score off a pinpoint high kick by Noilea from near halfway.
Uate finished off his hat-trick, before Ireland finished the scoring with tries to winger Damien Blanch and James Hasson.