It was Mick Potter’s Fiji against the United States of America Tomahawks coached by Brian McDermott for Saturdays final game at the Townsville Stadium in Townsville, Queensland.
Those outside the two camps knew little about the sides although both included a smattering of NRL and Super League players. The bookies had made Fiji the favourites and even USA coach McDermott acknowledged that if Fiji were on form it could be a very long night.
Fiji drew first blood on just two minutes when Suliasi Vunivalu offloaded under the tackle to Taane Milne who skilfully picked up the low ball and dove over. Apisai Koroisau failed to add the conversion.
On seven minutes a Milne grubber was collected by Kevin Naiqama two metres out from the line for the Fiji skipper to walk over and touch down. Koroisau added the extras. A Wiliame pass put Milne in for his second on twelve minutes, another short range effort and this time Koroisau kicked the conversion for 16-0.
A stepping run from centre Akuila Uate saw Fiji’s fourth trim just twelve minutes as the Tomahawks were being cut to ribbons defensively. Koroisau failed with the boot but the game was already in danger of becoming a walkover at 20-0.
Kane Evans crashed over the top of the USA defence but sustained a broken wrist in the act of scoring. Koroisau found the target on this occasion and Fiji were in total control at 26-0 after just eighteen minutes.
After being pinned in their own half for the opening twenty minutes, the USA finally got some possession and on their first foray into Fiji territory Matt Shipway found his way to the line and stretched to score. Bureta Faraimo added the conversion for 26-6.
The USA had kept the Fijians at bay for eleven minutes before Naiqama jinked through a broken defence to go over from ten metres out. Koroisau kicked the conversion for 32-6 after thirty-one minutes.
The USA had no answer to the speed and agility of their opponents. Vunivalu was next over with a forty metre dart from acting half-back to slice through the Tomahawks defence and sprint in for a try. Koroisau failed with the boot but the onslaught continued.
On the stroke of half time the USA looked to have grabbed their second when Vaivai collected a bouncing ball which has confused the Fiji defence to step inside but the video referee ruled it out for foot in touch. Fiji led by 36-6 at the interval.
On forty-five Jared Hayne opened the Fiji second half account when he went over under the sticks. Koroisau added the conversion from under the uprights.
On fifty-nine Viliame Kikau brushed aside five USA players to power over the line by the uprights. Milne took over the kicking duties and slotted one between the uprights for 48-6. A few minutes later Henry Raiwalui scored Fiji’s eleventh try after Kikau had drawn the full back. Milne converted again before Vunivalu got his second and from the restart for 58-6.
On seventy-one the USA got their second through Junior Vaivai as he found a gap wide left to dive over off a short pass. Faraimo slotted over the conversion from the touchline for double figures for the Tomahawks.
Fiji were devastating in attack, but the USA put up little resistance. There was plenty of free flowing rugby, delightful passing and deft offloading against an inexperienced Tomahawks side who made too many mistakes and missed far too many tackles. Fiji will see this as a great platform to mount a bid for a quarter final place while the USA will be looking to regroup ahead of their remaining games.
Fiji: Naiqama (2T), Vunivalu (2T), Milne (2T, 2G), Uate (T), Montoya, Hayne (T), Raiwalui (T), Sims, Koroisau (5G), Evans (T), Kikau (T), Wiliame, Kamikamica. Subs: Lovodua, Saifiti, Vunakece, Nakubuwai.
USA: Makelim, Burroughs, Vaivai (T), Alley, Faraimo (2G), Freed, D. Howard, Pettybourne, Marando, Offerdahl, S. Howard, Shipway (T), Newlin. Subs: Samoa, Kneisly, Eichner, Rice.
Referee: Henry Perenara.