Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
A tense, at times spiteful and error-riddled first half saw both sides neck and neck for much of the contest, Italy first to get on the board just minutes after Fiji's Suliasi Vunivalu was denied by the video referee. Azzurri winger Josh Mantellato was the scorer of the match's opening points some 20 minutes into the match, although he failed to convert his own four-pointer.
Shortly after all players came together in an ill-tempered clash, which saw Italian hooker Joey Tramontana and Fiji star Jarryd Hayne sin binned, the former for throwing a punch and the latter for inciting players to join by being third man in.
Italy came out the stronger and again scored the opening points of the half when play resumed, Nathan Milone on the end of a superb long-range try which saw a freakish bounce deliver the Azzurri their second.
Sadly for the Italians that would be their last points of the night - and the tournament - as Fiji clicked into gear.
Ahead 12-10, the Fijian accelerator was pressed in the 54th minute when Brayden Wiliame galloped down the right edge, before a Suliasi Vunivalu hat trick over the following 12 minutes, and then a nightcap for Canterbury's Marcelo Montoya for the Bati, ensuring they would finish the game with a dominant scoreline.
Fiji will now cross the Tasman for next Saturday's quarter final - either against Tonga in Christchurch, or Wellington against New Zealand - whichever side loses tomorrow's Pool B clash in Hamilton. Italy head home after stumbling in their first week clash against Ireland and again tonight, recording just the one win last week against a lacklustre USA.
Fiji 38 - Italy 10
Venue: GIO Stadium Canberra
Halftime Score: Fiji 12 Italy 4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Suliasi Vunivalu
2 points - Henry Raiwalui
1 points - Taane Milne
Tries: Kevin Naiqama, Henry Raiwalui, Brayden Wiliame, Suliasi Vunivalu (3), Marcelo Montoya
Conversions: Apisai Koroisau (4/5), Taane Milne (1/2)
Tries: Josh Mantellato, Nathan Milone
Conversions: Josh Mantellato (1/2)