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Timoney double helps Farrell's Ireland to scrappy win over 14-man Fiji
There was plenty of frustration for Ireland even as they scored five tries in a 35-17 win.

Ireland 35

Fiji 17

A WIN IS a win in Test rugby but this is one that Andy Farrell will pick plenty of holes in.

Ireland were rather wasteful despite playing against 14 men for the majority of the second half and even against 13 for 10 minutes of it. Time after time, Ireland left the Fijian 22 frustrated.

That said, they did have some excellent moments as player of the match Nick Timoney scored twice, wing duo Robert Baloucoune and Mack Hansen crossed, and Cian Healy barged over, while this victory makes it 11 in-a-row at the Aviva Stadium for Farrell’s men. Winning momentum is a very sweet thing.

mack-hansen-is-congratulated-by-max-deegan-after-scoring-a-try Tom Maher / INPHO Mack Hansen finished an Irish try in the second half. Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

We saw a Test debut for Munster out-half Jack Crowley as he played 35 impressive minutes off the bench for the injured Joey Carbery, while Jeremy Loughman won his first cap in the starting XV at loosehead prop and Connacht’s Cian Prendergast made his bow as a replacement.

There was the fact that nine changes to Farrell’s team after the win over South Africa meant readjustment and the 1pm kick-off certainly didn’t help. In truth, this was a dead occasion at times as players and supporters alike seemingly struggled to get into it. The fans entertained themselves with a Mexican Wave with 10 minutes left.

But even acknowledging all of that, it was disjointed stuff from Ireland. There are now only nine Tests left until Ireland kick-off their World Cup campaign and they didn’t fully capitalise on this opportunity.

Fiji’s discipline was deeply damaging to their hopes of a first-ever win against Ireland, with back row Albert Tuisue sent off for his high tackle on Carbery, while the Fijians had a yellow card in each half throw in for good measure. To their credit, Vern Cotter’s men still made life difficult for the home team.

Ireland struggled to fully convert the opportunity this presented as sloppy errors and their own intermittent disciplinary problems held them back. Irish teams are often lethal in the opposition 22, yet Farrell’s men repeatedly came up empty-handed here. More pleasingly for Ireland, the final-quarter tries from Hansen and Healy put some gloss on the scoreline.

In truth, this was always going to be a comedown after last weekend’s thriller against the Springboks and perhaps we have got too used to high-quality, exciting Irish performances.

Next up is the visit of the Wallabies, who limp into the game after their first-ever defeat to Italy. Farrell will hope for a more convincing end to his side’s autumn campaign.

kalaveti-ravouvou-scores-his-sides-1st-try-of-the-game Tom Maher / INPHO Fiji crossed early on through Kalaveti Ravouvou. Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

There was an early fright for Ireland as the Fijians won a breakdown turnover, missed that penalty shot at goal by out-half Teti Tela, but then scored from the Irish restart.

Number eight Viliame Mata made a thunderous carry back off Carbery’s drop-out and the ball was swung wide left for Vinaya Habosi to scorch outside Jamison Gibson-Park and pass back inside for Waisea Nayacalevu to send centre partner Kalaveti Ravouvou over for a converted fourth-minute try.

Ireland lost Robbie Henshaw to injury in that passage, the Leinster man having only just returned from a hamstring issue, while Farrell’s men were sloppy with their discipline in the minutes that followed Ravouvou’s score.

But the Fijians allowed them into their 22 and Ireland were clinical to level the game with 15 minutes gone. Timoney kick-started the passage with a strong carry off a maul, Kieran Treadwell sat Levani Botia down, Caelan Doris and captain Tadhg Furlong carried, then Timoney forced his way over with help from a Treadwell latch. Carbery added the extras for 7-7.

With Fiji tighthead Manasa Saulo having just been sin-binned for their repeated penalty infringements close to their tryline, Timoney grabbed his second score five minutes later at the back end of an Irish maul that involved a couple of their backs.

Carbery converted but Ireland handed the visitors an easy three points back immediately as Treadwell was caught offside ahead of the Irish exit kick, Tela popping over the penalty.

robert-balouccoune-scores-a-try Billy Stickland / INPHO Rob Baloucoune dots down Ireland's third try. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The Irish attack was on a bit of a roll, however, and Baloucoune crossed untouched on the right off a lofted Gibson-Park pass soon after Timoney and Doris combined for a big turnover tackle. Ireland struck in transition as pullback passes from debutant Loughman and Carbery allowed fullback Jimmy O’Brien to break to within a metre.

It looked as though O’Brien crawled briefly on the ground before Gibson-Park sent Baloucoune over, but TMO Chris Hart’s attempt to have the try chalked off was ignored by referee Mathieu Raynal.

The Frenchman soon had Fiji skipper Nayacalevu complaining to him as Fiji’s penalty count continued to rise in the closing minutes of the half, Cotter’s men clearly aggrieved at some of the decisions, but Ireland were unable to punish them further.

Hansen knocked on in the left corner, Conan was tackled into touch in the right corner, then Levani Botia produced a turnover penalty when Farrell’s side were within touching distance again, so Ireland led 21-10 at half time.

The Fijians hopes of an upset were hugely reduced five minutes after the restart as Tuisue was red-carded for his high tackle into the chin of Carbery, forcing the Ireland out-half off as Crowley came on for his debut.

Frustratingly, Ireland missed the ensuing five-metre chance as Rob Herring’s lineout throw was crooked. Soon after, Garry Ringrose’s clever grubber down the left just evaded the chasing Hansen.

nick-timoney Evan Treacy / INPHO Nick Timoney bagged two first-half tries for the home side. Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Fiji were down to 13 men in the 51st minute as replacement lock Apisalome Ratuniyarawa was punished for collapsing an Irish maul in the Fijian 22 but Ireland were soon defending down in their own defensive neck of the woods as the sloppy errors continued.

There was a palpable lack of energy on the pitch and in the stands, but Ireland added a little spark heading into the final quarter as Crowley had two nice touches in a fluid passage of attack that ended with Hansen’s cross-field kick just clearing O’Brien into touch on the left.

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The Irish maul was choked up for a turnover in the Fijian 22 soon after but their scrum powered up to win the ball against the head and Craig Casey, just on for Gibson-Park, fired the ball left for Hansen to dive in. Crowley converted from the touchline as Ratuniyarawa returned from the sin bin.

But Cotter’s men reminded us all of their attacking qualities with a scintillating score in response, fullback Setareki Tuicuvu deftly offloading for roaming right wing Jiuta Wainiqolo to break up the left-hand side before firing a one-handed offload inside to sub scrum-half Simione Kuruvoli.

The game was really breaking up by now but it was one of the heavies, sub loosehead Cian Healy, who smashed his way over for the fifth and final Irish try, the outstanding Tadhg Beirne latching on to help him over and Crowley converting again. 

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Nick Timoney [2], Robert Baloucoune, Mack Hansen, Cian Healy

Conversions: Joey Carbery [3 from 3], Jack Crowley [2 from 2]

Fiji scorers:

Tries: Kalaveti Ravouvou, Simione Kuruvoli

Conversions: Teti Tela [1 from 1], Ben Volavola [1 from 1]

Penalties: Teti Tela [1 from 2]

IRELAND: Jimmy O’Brien (Jamison Gibson-Park ’77); Robert Baloucoune, Robbie Henshaw (Garry Ringrose ’5), Stuart McCloskey, Mack Hansen; Joey Carbery (Jack Crowley ’46), Jamison Gibson-Park (Craig Casey ’50); Jeremy Loughman (Cian Healy ’62), Rob Herring (Dan Sheehan ’73), Tadhg Furlong (captain) (Tom O’Toole ’50); Kieran Treadwell (Cian Prendergast ’50), Tadhg Beirne; Caelan Doris (Max Deegan ’60); Nick Timoney, Jack Conan. 

FIJI: Setareki Tuicuvu; Jiuta Wainiqolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Kalaveti Ravouvou (Adrea Cocagi ’59), Vinaya Habosi; Teti Tela (Ben Volavola ’44), Frank Lomani (Simione Kuruvoli ’48); Eroni Mawi (Livai Natave ’59), Sam Matavesi (Mesulame Dolokoto ‘), Manasa Saulo (yellow card ’20) (Lee-Roy Atalifo ‘); Isoa Nasilasila, Ratu Leone Rotuisolia (Apisalome Ratuniyarawa ’24 (yellow card ’51)); Albert Tuisue (red card ’46) (Lee-Roy Atalifo ’27 to ’30), Levani Botia (John Dyer ’55), Viliame Mata.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [FFR].

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