Fiji thrashed USA 58-12 in the opening game of Group D at the Townsville Stadium on Saturday.
Fiji scored seven tries in what was a dominant first half display through Taane Milne (2), Kevin Naiqama (2), Akuila Uate, Kane Evans and Suliasi Vunivalu scoring while Matt Shipway scored one for USA, with the score at half-time being 36-6 in favour of Fiji.
Efforts from Jarryd Hayne, Viliame Kikau, Vunivalu and Henry Raiwalui saw the Bati heavily in front while Junior Vaivai scored at the end for USA, but Fiji were deserved 58-12 winners after putting in a stunning performance.
Korbin Sims was a late drop out for Fiji so Catalans Dragons ace Brayden Williame replaced him while Kevin Naiqama captained the Bati outfit.
Brian McDermott made three changes to his original squad that he named earlier in the week, with Matthew Walsh, Sam Tochterman-Talbott and Gabriel Farley missing out and Tui Samoa, Joe Eichner and Josh Rice coming into the 17-man team.
Fiji started the game in good fashion, scoring in the third minute as Taane Milne barged over out wide. Hooker Apisai Koroisau couldn’t convert but they were 4-0 up.
USA couldn’t get into the game for a while as Bati captain Kevin Naiqama latched onto a Milne kick to score near the posts. Koroisau added the extras to put his side in a 10-0 lead.
Mick Potter’s Fiji side scored their fourth when Milne wrestled his way through the Hawks to score. The conversion was good and Fiji were 16-0 in front.
New South Wales star Akuila Uate showed magnificent footwork to score. Koroisau couldn’t add the two points but Fiji were 20-0 ahead after just 13 minutes.
The Bati continued to roll USA and Kane Evans went over after bursting onto a crisp flat ball from Jarryd Hayne. Koroisau this time converted to put his side in a 26-0 advantage.
Brian McDermott’s USA stuck in there though and pulled one back midway through the first half as Matt Shipway ran a good line to catch the Bati defence off guard. Bureta Faraimo added the conversion but the Hawks were still 26-6 behind.
Marcelo Montoya thought he had scored for Fiji a couple of minutes after the USA score but the video referee denied him due to him having a foot in touch.
Naiqama grabbed his second on the half hour mark as he sold USA a dummy and a fend before touching down. Koroisau converted to give Fiji a 26-point margin.
In the 34th minute, try-scoring machine Suliasi Vunivalu scored following a superb break for the Bati. The conversion was off target but Fiji were 36-6 to the good.
USA and Junior Vaivai were denied a try by the video referee on the brink of half-time due to the centre having a foot in touch, and Fiji were 36-6 up at the break.
HALF TIME: Fiji 36–6 USA.
USA completed a couple of back-to-back sets at the start of the second-half but it wasn’t long before Fiji started scoring again as Uate made a fantastic break before giving it to the supporting Jarryd Hayne who raced under the posts. Koroisau added the extras to put Fiji into a 42-6 lead.
Fiji scored again on the hour. Viliame Kikau proved a handful for the USA defence one again and Milne’s conversion took the score to 48-6 in favour of Fiji.
Winger Vunivalu then scored his second of the game following a fine play from Fiji. Milne dragged his conversion attempt wide but Fiji were in a healthy 52-6 lead.
The Bati scored their 11th try through half-back Henry Raiwalui. Milne’s boot put his side 58-6 in front but the USA were still battling on.
The Hawks didn’t give up once in the game and got a small reward in the dying embers as Vaivai did cross the whitewash this time, in the 72nd minute. Faraimo converted but the USA still trailed 58-12.
The game slowed down towards the end of the game and Fiji were triumphant in the opening match of Group D, with a resounding 58-12 win over USA.
FULL TIME: Fiji 58–12 USA.
Fiji – 58
Tries: Milne 2, Naiqama 2, Uate, Evans, Vunivalu 2, Hayne, Kikau, Raiwalui
Goals: Koroisau 5/8, Milne 2/3
USA – 12
Tries: Shipway, Vaivai
Goals: Faraimo 2/2
Fiji: 1. Kevin Naiqama (C), 2. Suliasi Vunivalu, 3. Taane Milne, 4. Akuila Uate, 5. Marcelo Montoya, 6. Jarryd Hayne, 7. Henry Raiwalui, 8. Ashton Sims, 9. Apisai Koroisau, 10. Kane Evans, 11. Viliame Kikau, 18. Brayden Williame, 13. Tui Kamikamica.
Interchange: 14. Joe Lovodua, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Eloni Vunakece, 17. Ben Nakubuwai.
USA: 1. Corey Makelim, 2. Ryan Burroughs, 3. Junior Vaivai, 4. Jonathan Alley, 5. Bureta Faraimo, 6. Kristian Freed, 11. Danny Howard, 8. Eddy Pettybourne. 9. David Marando, 10. Mark Offerdahl (C), 11. Steve Howard, 12. Matt Shipway, 13. Nicholas Newlin.
Interchange: 7. Tui Samoa, 15. Andrew Kneisley, 19. Joe Eichner, 21. Josh Rice.
Referee – Henry Perenara