Fiji have opened their world cup campaign with a 32-12 victory over the Irish Wolfhounds in Spotland tonight.
Monday's only contest was between the two lower ranked sides in Group A. Fiji and Ireland showed though that they could produce some entertaining rugby league despite constant rain.
The Bati were bolstered by a litany of NRL stars like in 2008 when they reached the semi-finals before the run was ended by Australia. Akuila Uate was the star of the side then and showed he hadn't lost his finishing touch from a nice backline movement.
Kevin Naiqama pounced off a rebound to cross for Fiji's second as it looked like a long night loomed for the Wolfhounds in front of a sold-out crowd in Rochdale.
Much like last night in the New Zealand/Samoa game - aggression brought the losing side back into the contest. Ireland were camped down the Bati line with several penalties and clashes between the forwards. Tyrone McCarthy put this pressure to the scoreboard after a barging effort to reduce the deficit.
Wes Naiqama added a penalty goal just before the halftime break despite the binning of interchange forward Eloni Vunakece to give Fiji a 12-4 lead at halftime.
The rain arrived during the halftime break forcing Fiji to play further through the middle. This ended up benefiting the Bati who put the game beyond doubt in a slew of points between the 54th and 70 minute.
Both Tariq and Korbin Sims got their name on the scoresheet with Tariq popping up in the right place in the 54th minute to cross after a collision between Marika Koroibete and Damien Blanch. Korbin showed athleticism in latching onto a bouncing bomb from Aaron Groom.
Akuila Uate was down on his prolific try-scoring effort in the NRL this season but had no problem tonight in Rochdale. He produced a typical Uate effort in his second and third tries of his hat-trick. Uate ran over defenders despite a juggle for his second and showed strength to wriggle free to complete the treble.
The Irish would take some late consolation in the contest with Catalan winger Damien Blanch crossing from some tricky play down the right side. Manly young gun James Hasson slipped through the defense right on the buzzer after a massive touch-finder from Pat Richards to put the final score at 32-12.
Fiji 32 Ireland 14
Venue: Spotland Stadium
Halftime Score: Fiji 12-4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Kevin Naiqama
2 points - Aaron Groom
1 point - Akuila Uate