Fiji's insane double play in spiteful RLWC win

Fiji pulled off one of the most impressive plays of the Rugby League World Cup in their scintillating win over Italy in Canberra on Friday night.

 

A Suliasi Vunivalu hat-trick helped the Fijians wrap up a comfortable 38-10 win but the scoreboard didn't tell the full story.

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In an enthralling and spiteful pool clash against Italy, the Fijians turned defence into attack to light up the Canberra crowd in a magnificent passage of play in the second half of the match.

The Italians had reduced the deficit to just two points after the break thanks to a freakish kick and a fortuitous try to Nathan Milone.

The underdogs then looked like hitting the lead when Mason Cerruto stormed onto the ball ten metres out from the line, only to be denied by desperate Fijian defence.

However, a last-ditch tackle from Kevin Naiqama stopped an almost certain try and led to an astonishing four-pointer at the other end of the field.

The Wests Tigers star managed to strip the ball clear of the Italian in a legitimate one-on-one contest to turn defence into attack for The Bati.

Naiqama was rewarded for his defensive brilliance moments later when his side carried the footy almost 90-metres up the other end to extend their advantage through Brayden Wiliame.

Italy's resolve seemed to be broken after the incident as Fiji piled on a succession of tries to turn a once close contest into a second-half blowout.

Fiji's win was overshadowed by an ugly incident after Jarryd Hayne was sin-binned.

Hayne and Joe Tramontana were marched from the field for 10 minutes late in Friday night's first half after an all-in scuffle in which the Italian dummy-half threw a punch at Suliasi Vunivalu.

As Hayne and Tramontana walked up the GIO Stadium tunnel, Tramontana had to be restrained by an Italian staff member after seemingly taking offence to something said by Hayne.

Despite the tournament not imposing an automatic sin-bin rule for punching - which is enforced in the NRL - referee Robert Hicks had no hesitation in sin-binning Tramontana.

He was one of three players sin-binned in what was a diabolical first half, as the Bati finished top of pool D and will meet the loser of Saturday's New Zealand-Tonga clash in the quarter-finals.

Fiji winger Vunivalu scored three times in eight minutes - to extend his tournament tally to eight - to take the game out of Italy's hands midway through the second half.

Vunivalu completed his hat-trick with Marcelo Montoya diving over in the 75th minute to put the Fijians up by 38-10 and the game to bed.

The first half promised sparks and it didn't take long for the first fireworks of the night to kick off with Italy's Jayden Walker sin-binned for ten minutes after a professional foul.

Despite that early setback and against the run of play, it was the Italians that crossed for the opening try of the game courtesy of Josh Mantellato.

Kevin Naiqama hit back for the Fijians before a wild brawl erupted which saw Jarryd Hayne and Joseph Tramontana sin-binned for Fiji and Italy respectively.

When the dust settled it was Fiji who went into the break with a 10-4 lead courtesy of a Henry Raiwalui four-pointer just before the halftime siren.

Former Canberra champion Terry Campese - playing in what was likely his last game - was clearly troubled by a calf injury and his night ended when he was benched in the 57th minute.

The 33-year-old, who this year captain-coached Queanbeyan to a premiership in the Canberra local competition, was given a fitting farewell in front of his local fans.

He set up Josh Mantellato for the first try with a floating pass.

With AAP

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