venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
1st November 2008
Full Match Report
RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP GROUP B
Fiji outplayed favourites France with a thrilling display of attacking verve to get their World Cup campaign off to a winning start in Wollongong. First-half tries from Jarryd Hayne, Iowane Divavesi and the outstanding Akuila Uate gave Fiji a deserved 18-6 lead going into the break. Uate's second try opened the floodgates as a shell-shocked France fell apart to effectively end their semi-final hopes. A superb solo try from hat-trick hero Uate sealed a crushing seven-try win.
Fiji hit the ground running to made a nonsense of the bookmakers' pre-match odds as they produced a display full of wit and invention to leave France chasing shadows. But it was a pragmatic decision to take a simple two points through a Wes Naiqama penalty, which got the scoreboard ticking over for Fiji, before Hayne, who enjoyed a fine game at full-back, went through two tackles to score the first try of the game. France put in occasional big hits in defence, but Fiji were beginning to dominate possession, and it was not long before Divavesi benefitted from a fortunate run of the ball to score Fiji's second under the posts.
John Wilson ran a clever line to take a short pass off Jared Taylor to get France on the scoreboard, but it was an isolated outbreak as Fiji continued to impress with ball in hand. Uate grabbed his first try after Naiqama stood up his man before off-loading to his winger, coming back on the switch, before a late penalty gave them a 12-point lead at the break
France badly needed the first score of the second half, but a fantastic piece of play from dummy-half by Uate - following up a superb Aaron Groom break - made it 22-6 as his footwork beat three tacklers. John Monie's French team hit the panic button with more than half an hour to go, throwing out suicidal passes to their wingers that were just asking for trouble - and Fiji's muscular defence were more than happy to oblige. Debutant Semisi Tora, from the memorably named Parkes Spacemen club, scored under the posts after a brilliant offload from Alipate Noilea, and then Hayne exploited some woeful French defending for a long-range individual score.
But Fiji saved the best til last as Uate went 80m, beating three defenders along the way, for one of the tries of the tournament as they made themselves strong favourites to qualify for the semi-final play-off from Pool B.
Hayne, Tadulala, Naiqama (captain), Millard, Uate, Noilea, Groom, Divavesi, Sukanaveita, Vonomateiratu, Sims, Sadrau, Bukuya. Replacements: Storer, Bradley-Qalilawa, Tora, Koroi.
Taylor, Murphy, Wilson, Raguin, Pelo, Bosc, Moly, Borlin, Wynne, Elima, Guisset (captain), Sadaoui, Mounis. Replacements: Casty, Fakir, Greseque, Carrasco