Albert Tuisue is red-carded as Ireland score five converted tries at Aviva Stadium
Ireland stutter to 35-17 win over 14-man Fiji
World No 1 Ireland made hard work of defeating Fiji at Aviva Stadium, eventually scoring five converted tries to record an 11th successive home win and a 16th win in 18 matches.
Once again, Fiji were let down by discipline issues. A week on from conceding 18 penalties and three yellow cards at Murrayfield, they suffered two more yellows and a red.
The latter occurred just after half-time when blindside Albert Tuisue clattered into Joey Carbery, shoulder on head. His dismissal was Fiji’s 18th red card in history and effectively ended any hopes of a first victory over the Irish. They trailed 21-10 at the time.
When Api Ratuniyarawa was sin-binned soon after, Fiji were down to 13 but Ireland had to be content with just two further tries before full-time. Mack Hansen scored after a strong Irish scrum and a whipped pass by Craig Casey, then replacement Cian Healy got over for his ninth Test try on his 120th appearance.
As so often, Fiji produced fleeting moments of brilliance, with delicious scores by Kalaveti Ravouvou and Simione Kuruvoli. In a match of few scrums – the first one wasn’t until the 28th minute – they will be chuffed by the scrum penalty they won just before the break. And they made nine dominant tackles to Ireland’s one across the 80 minutes.
For Ireland, Kieran Treadwell carried conspicuously and Jack Crawley made an assured debut after replacing Carbery. The young ten only made his Munster bow 13 months ago. Player of the Match went to the two-try Nick Timoney.
Fiji had struck first, getting outside Ireland on the left flank for centre Ravouvou to score from an inside pass. Teti Tela, restored to the squad after a delay caused by losing his passport, converted.
Robbie Henshaw departed immediately afterwards through injury, Garry Ringrose his replacement, and a penetrating run by Vinaya Habosi added to Ireland’s unease.
Timoney might have been sin-binned for a no-arms tackle but instead was there to score Ireland’s first try as they went through the phases in Fiji’s 22.
Treadwell thought he had got try number two only to be denied by brilliant defensive work by Levani Botia, who got his hand under the ball behind the line.
But the tide was flowing only one way and a yellow card for tighthead Manasa Saulo, following repeated team infringements, proved damaging. First, back-row Timoney crossed for his second try from a lineout drive, then wing Robert Baloucoune strolled over on the right from a 20m pass by Jamison Gibson-Park.
The TMO tried to overrule the try for a double movement by Jimmy O’Brien but was rightly disregarded by referee Mathieu Raynal.
Other opportunities were squandered as Mack Hansen dropped the ball and Jack Conan went into touch with his trailing leg.
So half-time was reached at 21-10 and although the outcome, rubber-stamped by Tuisue’s red card, was inevitable, this was no runaway victory for Ireland. “They basically tired out Fiji,” said former Ireland wing, Simon Zebo, a pundit for Amazon Prime.
“It was pretty underwhelming,” said Ireland coach Andy Farrell. “We need to do better.”
Australia complete Ireland’s autumn programme next week.
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