Rugby League World Cup: Ireland not giving up hope in Group A yet
Ireland coach Mark Aston could not fault the effort of his players in their 32-14 defeat to Group A rivals Fiji.
Last Updated: 29/10/13 7:05am
Former Australia winger Akuila Uate scored three of Fiji's six tries as the 2008 semi-finalists ran out comfortable winners in front of a full house at Rochdale Football Club's Spotland Stadium.
The Irish did grab two late consolation scores through Damien Blanch and James Hasson, but the result leaves them facing an uphill task to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.
They now must get the better of either England, who they face at the John Smith's Stadium in Huddersfield on Saturday, or Australia if they are to have a chance of qualifying from Group A.
"Fiji were very quick out of blocks and it took us a little bit of time to get into it but, once we did and got a bit of rhythm, we got ourselves back in the game," Aston said.
"We're a bit disappointed because we knew we could have got a bit closer and maybe, if we had been in it towards the end, we could have sneaked over and won the game.
"But we get to live another day and we've got to look forward to Saturday.
"There were a lot of positives. We stood up and you've got to single out Brett White, who must have been the best player on the field by a country mile.
"We've only been together for 10 days but we showed a lot of character and a lot of togetherness.
"We weren't quite good enough in the end but we should take a lot of credit for going out there and giving 100 per cent for 80 minutes."
Their hopes of causing an upset against Steve McNamara's England could be hit by the loss of Scott Grix; the full-back was helped off the field towards the end with a leg injury.
"He'll go for a scan tomorrow," Aston added. "It could be a pull or a dead leg or a tear.
"It's a short turnaround but we'll patch them up and go again. We're in the hardest group but we'll look forward to it."
Despite opening their campaign on a winning note, Fiji coach Rick Stone admitted he had some cause for concern over their discipline. They next face the Kangaroos at Langtree Park on Saturday.
"The important thing tonight was to get a win," he said. "It was probably pretty ugly at times but the intent was great.
"At times we defended a little bit spasmodically and with too much emotion.
"There was plenty of emotion in the game from our boys and that's something we've got to control in the future if we're going to be competitive against the better sides."