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Rugby League World Cup: Fiji much too strong for Ireland
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Akuila Uate grabbed a hat-trick of tries as Fiji kicked off their Rugby League World Cup campaign with a resounding 32-14 victory over Ireland in Rochdale.
Former Australia winger Uate registered three of Fiji's six tries as they recorded what could prove a crucial result in the battle to seal one of the three qualifying places from Pool A.
The Irish crossed in the first half through Tyrone McCarthy and did muster two late scores from Damien Blanch and James Hasson, although by then the game was long since over as a contest.
Ireland now face an uphill task to reach the knockout stages of the tournament, with games against heavyweights England and Australia to come.
They only trailed 12-4 at the break in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,872 at Spotland but simply couldn't contain their opponents in the second half.
Uate produced a strong finish to open the scoring on nine minutes and Ireland had barely recovered when full-back Kevin Naiqama beat two flat-footed defenders to cross for a second.
Centre Wes Naiqama converted his brother's try and the Fijians would have been further ahead had captain Petero Civoniceva not been held up as he lunged for the line.
However, the 'Batis' paid the price for giving away a plethora of penalties as second rower McCarthy touched down for Ireland on 23 minutes.
Mark Aston's side could have drawn level had second rower Dave Allen managed to take Scott Grix's pass when he seemed to be in a superb try-scoring position.
The missed chance proved crucial as Fiji - who dominated in the forwards - overcame the sin-binning of replacement Eloni Vunakece just before the interval to move clear.
Naiqama extended the lead to 12-4 on the stroke of half-time with a penalty and there was no way back for Ireland once second rower Tariq Sims went over for a third try for Fiji.
Uate notched two more tries while loose forward Korbin Sims also touched down, allowing Naiqama to take his goal tally to four from seven attempts.
To make matters worse for Ireland, they lost Scott Grix to a leg injury that could see him miss Saturday's key clash with England at his home ground in Huddersfield.
They did at least finish on a positive note, winger Blanch going over at the corner before James Hassan marked an impressive debut by forcing his way over for a try that Pat Richards managed to convert.