Vunivalu hat-trick downs Italy
It was the pass that turned back the clock. Not even a bung calf could stop Italy halfback Terry Campese from enjoying the Canberra Stadium farewell his body denied him at the end of his NRL career.
The former Canberra Raiders captain produced a wicked cut-out pass to set up the opening try, but his game would end the same way as his NRL career with injury forcing him off in the second half.
It was a tight contest until then, before Fiji ran away to win 38-10 on the back of a Suliasi Vunivalu hat-trick.
The Bati go through to the quarter-finals to face the loser of New Zealand and Tonga.
Campese’s calf forced him off in the 58th minute to applause from the 6733 fans on Friday night.
Fiji’s dulcet pre-game tones gave no indication of the spiteful affair that was to come, with three players sin binned in the opening half.
Italy second-rower Jayden Walker was the first to go after some push and shove between James Tedesco and Fiji winger Marcelo Montoya broke out.
Vunivalu looked to have opened the scoring when he cut back off his right wing, but it was ruled out due to an obstruction, which along with sin bins became a theme for the night.
Italy went straight up the other end and Vunivalu’s opposite number, Josh Mantellato, opened the scoring off Campese’s wicked cut-out pass.
It was the first of back-to-back tries Mantellato played a role in.
Unfortunately for the Italian winger Fiji scored it – Mantellato clean bowled by a Jarryd Hayne kick to allow a charging Kevin Naiqama to put Fiji in front.
Both team’s blood boiled over just before half-time, with Italy hooker Joseph Tramontana and Hayne sent to the sin bin following an all-in push-and-shove.
That wasn’t where it ended either, with Tramontana needing to be restrained in the tunnel as he looked to take it further with Hayne.
Fiji forward Junior Roqica brought plenty of energy off the bench for his side and he looked to have extended his team’s lead going into the break only for his try to be disallowed for obstruction.
But they didn’t have to wait long before they did, with Fijian halfback Henry Raiwalui showing and going for a lovely try.
There was concern in the Italy camp over Campese’s troublesome calf as he used the break to do a fitness test – which he passed, just.
Luckily he did because he played a hand in one of the more bizarre World Cup tries you’ll see, with Italy centre Nathan Milone hacking a kick out of mid air that he’d chase down himself to score.
With Tedesco joining Campese in the halves, Mason Cerruto was lively at fullback and should have had a try, but a great Kevin Naiqama strip stopped him in his tracks and almost Fiji went straight up the other end for Brayden Wiliame to score.
Vunivalu got his try, just after Campese called it a day, bursting straight through the middle of the Italy line to show a clean pair of jets.
It was the start of an eight-minute hat-trick that ended the game as a contest and perhaps pulled the curtain on Campese’s career.
FIJI38 (Suliasi Vunivalu 3, Kevin Naiqama, Henry Raiwalui, Brayden Wiliame, Marcelo Montoya tries; Apisai Koroisau 5 goals) bt ITALY10 (Josh Mantellato, Nathan Milone tries; Mantellato goal) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Robert Hicks. Crowd: 6733.