Fiji 60-4 Italy: Bati shake off World Cup nerves by thrashing Azzurri

Sebastian Sternik
Ben Nakubuwai Fiji PA

Fiji shook off their early World Cup nerves and produced scintillating display in a 60-4 thrashing of Italy in Newcastle. 

After kicking off their World Cup campaign with a somewhat underwhelming 42-8 defeat against Australia, Fiji arrived at Kingston Park with a point to prove.

The Bati certainly responded by marking their first win of the tournament with a one-sided demolition which saw them rack up 30 points in both halves.

Wise Kativerata’s men went on the attack from the very first whistle as the gulf in class became evident in the opening minutes of the contest. 

Despite the vast array of quality in black jerseys, it was an Italian error which led to the opening try. Brandon Wakeham’s last tackle kick proved too hot to handle for Luke Polselli who inadvertently sent the ball into touch. 

Viliame Kikau opens the scoring

Fiji were handed a full set just 10 metres out and took full advantage with Viliame Kikau stretching over for the opener. Wakeham added the extras with the first of seven successful conversions. 

Just four minutes had passed before Italy made another calamitous mistake. On this occasion, it was Dean Parata who sent his pass into no man’s land. Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama picked up the loose ball and raced 50 metres before touching down.

With a quarter-of-an-hour gone, Fiji struck once more. Wakeham’s last tackle kick was collected by Jake Maizen, though the player came under immediate pressure and was unceremoniously shoved into touch. 

Fiji found themselves 10 metres away, with Penioni Tagituimua showing some incredible footwork before crashing over from dummy half. 

The pressure kept on coming as Italy struggled to keep their opponents at bay. Just seven minutes later, Kikau scored his second after escaping the clutches of Brenden Santi, Anton Iaria and Polselli. 

Fiji, who were now 24-0 up, took their foot off the gas for the remainder of the half. Nevertheless, Italy were unable to mount a response against a side full of NRL talent. 

Just before the half-time hooter, Apisai Koroisau showed scintillating footwork before scoring yet another Fiji try. The Penrith Panther star avoided the tackle of Daniel Atkinson, put Radean Robinson on the floor and left Brenden Santi in the dust before crashing over. Wakeham’s conversion made it 30-0 at the break.

Fiji 30-0 up at the break

Italy picked up the tempo in the early moments of the second half, though it was Fiji’s quality which once again proved decisive. 

Just five minutes after the restart, Tagituimua stamped his name on the scoresheet for the second time. Vuate Karawalevu made the initial breakthrough after gaining 60 metres with a startling run. Sunia Turuva carried on the move before off-loading to the eventual try scorer. 

Fiji then scored 12 points in a space of two minutes as interchange Ben Nakubuwai and Maika Sivo both powered over the whitewash. The second of the two tries was converted by Apisai Koroisau as Fiji moved 48-0 ahead.

While Italy were never going to turn the score around, they did avoid a complete whitewash with a try in the 55th minute. Maizen was the scorer as Italy shifted the ball out wide with Polselli grabbing an assist. 

Despite this, it was Fiji who finished strong as Sivo and Raiwalui added two more efforts before the full-time hooter. 

The Bati will now close out their group campaign with a game against Scotland. Italy, on the other hand, will face tournament favourites Australia. 

Fiji: Turuva; Karawalevu, Naiqama, Valemei, Sivo; Koroisau, Wakeham; Vuniyayawa, Tagituimua, Kamikamica, Wong, Kikau, Sims. Subs: Liolevave, Nakubuwai, Sadrugu, Raiwalui. 18th man: Masima.

Tries: Kikau (2), Naiqama, Tagituimua (2), Koroisau, Nakubuwai, Sivo (2), Sadrugu Goals: Wakeham 7, Koroisay 2, Raiwalui 1

Italy: Polselli; Lepori, Natoli, Atkinson, Maizen; Campagnolo, Robinson; Susino, Parata, Iaria, King, Santi, Brown. Subs: Tramontana, Moretti, Colovatti, Hodge. Subs: Pickering.

Tries: Maizen Goals:

Attendance: 3,675

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