A first half double from departing Panthers forward Viliame Kikau and a second half double from Eels winger Maika Sivo has paved the way for a dominant Fiji to secure their first victory of this year's World Cup with a 60-4 win over Italy.
After going down against Australia in their opening game of the World Cup, the Bati raced out of the blocks against the Azzurri with three tries in the opening 15 minutes paving the way for one of Fiji's biggest ever wins on the international stage.
Kikau was one of many who shone in the first half blitz by Fiji, bagging his first international double since 2019, while young fullback Sunia Turuva continued to show his bright future with a number of impressive touches.
The result puts Fiji in the box seat for a spot in the knockout rounds, with Joe Dakuitoga's side needing to defeat Scotland to progress through to the quarterfinals should Australia do the job as expected against Italy in the other pool match.
Having gone into the match with plenty of confidence after their opening round win over Scotland, Italy were made to pay for an ill-disciplined start to the contest with errors directly leading to points for all of Fiji's first three tries.
A dropped bomb from Brandon Wakeham allowed Kikau to open the scoring after eight minutes before an error from dummy half moments later allowed captain Kevin Naiqama to scoop up a loose pass and run 50 metres to double the Bati's lead.
Penioni Tagituimua made it three tries in six minutes for Fiji when he crossed from dummy half in the 14th minute after Jake Maizen was taken into touch, before Kikau grabbed a second shortly after to blow the scoreline out to 24-0.
Such was Fiji's dominance that Italy only recorded their first play-the-ball in their opponents' 20-metre line in the 31st minute — an attack that was quickly nullified by the defensive work of Turuva in dealing with a kick in behind.
Another departing Panther in Apisai Koroisau made it 30-0 just before the break as a sustained spell of pressure led to more points from Fiji, before turning provider early in the second half to set up tries for both Tagituimua and Ben Nakubuwai.
Jake Maizen gave Italian fans something to cheer about when he showed good awareness to narrowly ground the ball in the in-goal in the 55th minute, with his fourth try of this year's World Cup eventually putting the Azzurri on the board.
However, Fiji quickly returned to normal service shortly after, with Kikau and Sivo continuing to cause havoc on the left wing as the Eels winger secured his second try of the game after a delightful late offload from the forward.
After registering four direct try involvements, Kikau was given an early mark with the result all but confirmed — smiling alongside five-eighth Brandon Wakeham on the sidelines for the final 20 minutes as Taniela Sadrugu's late effort ensured Fiji would run out comfortable winners in the end.
Match: Fiji v Italy
Round 2 -
Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle
- The win is Fiji's biggest victory since downing Wales 72-6 back in 2017.
- Fiji had just 10 tackle breaks and 3 offloads in their Round 1 game — the fewest of any nation — but made up for that in Round 2 with 40 tackle breaks and 14 offloads in the first half alone.
- Taniela Sadrugu was penalised for a late tackle on Italy captain Nathan Brown in the 30th minute that may attract further interest of the RLWC judiciary despite the incident not being placed on report in-game.
- Fiji's first half dominance was shown in the stats, with the Bati recording close to triple the running metres (1,295 to 537) of Italy in the first half while producing just three incomplete sets to Italy's five.
- Maika Sivo scored his first international try for Fiji since 2019.
- Five-eighth Brandon Wakeham was given an early mark with Fiji leading 48-0, substituted with just under half an hour remaining in the clash, while Kikau was also taken off with 15 minutes remaining in the contest.
- After bagging a hat-trick against Scotland, Jake Maizen grabbed his fourth try of the World Cup to sit second on the leading try-scorers list.
- Wakeham (seven goals from seven attempts), Koroisau (two goals from two attempts) and Henry Raiwalui (one goal from one attempt) ensured Fiji would finish the day with a perfect conversion rate.
- The Bati have made the semi-finals in each of the past three World Cups and are on track to progress through to the knockout rounds once again should they triumph against Scotland in their final pool match next week.
Play of the Game
After Vuate Karawalevu's impressive 60-metre kick return put Fiji on the front foot, it was the craft and guile of Koroisau and Turuva that proved too much for Italy in one of the tries of the game. The halfback broke free of several tackles in a mesmerising 30-metre run before linking up with Turuva, who showed great strength to offload the ball for Tagituimua to grab his second try of the game.
What They Said
"Our defence really led the way; we didn't give them any points and stuck to our game plan and our defence won us the game at the end of the day. Everything is looking good, but we need to keep working on ourselves. Rugby league is a simple sport: we need to work on the small things and progress in the game against Scotland and see how we go from there. We're Fijians, wherever we go we are always relaxed so the boys know what the job is." — Fiji assistant coach Wise Kativerata
Fiji appear set on a collision course with New Zealand in the quarterfinals with the Bati likely to face the Kiwis should they come second in Group B. For that to happen, however, they must first see off Scotland in their final group stage game which will take place in in Newcastle in a week's time. Later that day, Italy will face Australia in their final group stage game at Totally Wicked Stadium.