Ireland 46 Fiji 3
Ireland produced another accomplished performance at Stade de la Rabine yesterday evening to set themselves up for a pool showdown with New Zealand next Thursday in a bid to reach the semi-finals of the Junior World Championship for the first time.
Mike Ruddock's men ran in six tries with former Cork senior hurler Darren Sweetnam getting two of them and Ulster's Rory Scholes bringing his total in this campaign to three with a second-half brace. Prop Chris Taylor and flanker Dan Leavy chipped in with the other tries as Ireland won both of their opening games for the first time in the six year history of the tournament.
Conor Joyce, who captained Ireland yesterday, said the victory now sets them up for a crack at the Baby Blacks.
“We worked so hard against Australia the first day, so to come out and put in a performance like that is just brilliant. It sets us up nicely for New Zealand the next day,” said the flanker.
Ireland feared an early onslaught from Fiji as the islanders tried to redeem themselves after their opening night horror show against New Zealand, but their hopes of early points were dashed when scrumhalf Emori Waqa missed a penalty from 35 metres in front of the posts.
Instead, it was Ireland who got on top with Tom Daly easing them into a 12th minute lead with a penalty from 20 metres. He then created the initial opening which was continued by Dan Leavy before being sprayed through the hands for Sweetnam to score in the right corner.
Daly was off target with the conversion and also saw two penalties from either touchline miss the range, but the Carlow man made it 11-3 on the half hour after Waqa had got Fiji off the mark.
Ireland continued to be patient in their build-up and got a stranglehold as Fiji’s discipline deteriorated – they conceded a dozen penalties to Ireland’s four in the half – and Daly made it 14-3 at the break with an effort from 25 metres.
Ireland used their dominant scrum to wrap up the game after the restart, opting to force the Fijians to pack down in a series of penalties and eventually their superiority told with tighthead Taylor scoring to put daylight between the sides.
Scholes got the first of his brace when he got the bounce of the ball after chasing his own kick after 49 minutes. He wrapped up the bonus point six minutes later after Gavin Thornbury had stolen a lineout and the ball was quickly played through Steve Crosbie and Daly for the Ulsterman to score after switching wings.
Both sides emptied their benches in the closing quarter but a fine display was crowned when Leavy scored after being superbly set up by Sweetnam.
IRELAND: D Leader (Connacht); D Sweetnam (Munster), M Roche (Connacht), T Daly (Leinster), R Scholes (Ulster); S Crosbie (Leinster), D Shanahan (Leinster); E Byrne (Leinster), B Byrne (Leinster), C Taylor (Ulster); G Thornbury (Leinster), S McCarthy (Munster); C Joyce (Ulster), D Leavy (Leinster), J O'Donoghue (Munster). Replacements: L McGrath (Leinster) for Shanahan (53 mins), J van der Flier (Leinster) for Joyce (59 mins), R Scannell (Munster) for Daly (61 mins), R Furniss (Exile) for Taylor (65 mins), J Donnan (Ulster) for Thornbury, D Panter (Connacht) for Scholes (both 66 mins), G McGuigan (Exile) for B Byrne, P Dooley (Leinster) for E Byrne (both 68 mins), G Thornbury for McCarthy (72 mins).
FIJI: R Rokoduru; M Qionimacawa, N Kunavore, A Tabualevu, E Ratucove; F Seru, E Waqa; J Ravula, T Vatubua, M Doge; E Macu, K Tokalau; L Bolenaivalu, J Baleidau, P Yato. Replacements: Z Lee for Doge (h-t), J King for Rokoduru (47 mins), P Cakoba for Vatubua (60 mins), M Vunibaka for Yato (62 mins), D Bower for Waqa, J Douglas for Seru (both 65 mins), A Robarobalevu for Ravula (70 mins), S Kerekere for Tokalau (72 mins).
Referee: S Kubo (Japan).