Century performance ensures Fiji World Cup berth

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Nemani Nadolo of Fiji dives over for his third try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying match between Fiji and the Cook Islands in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo: David Rogers

Suva, Fiji - Fiji thrashed the Cook Islands 108-6 in a 17-try rout on Saturday to secure their berth at next year's Rugby World Cup in England.

Nemani Nadolo scored a hat-trick of tries while Metuisela Talebula, Adriu Delai and Timoci Nagusa added a pair each in the comprehensive victory which ensured Fiji will play England in the World Cup opener at Twickenham on September 18.

Nemia Kenatale, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Watisoni Votu, Akapusi Qera, Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Leeroy Atalifo scored a try each in the qualifier at Churchill Park, Lautoka. Nikola Matawalu scored two tries as a replacement.

It was the third-highest score posted by a Fijian side, whose best is 120-4 over Niue 31 years ago, while the hapless Cook Islands were subjected to their worst defeat and the first time they have conceded more than 100 points in a game.

It was always going to be a lop-sided fixture between the world's 11th and 46th ranked sides, with Fiji only forced into qualifying after failing to advance from the pool stages at the last World Cup.

Fiji also had the luxury of drawing from an established pool of players, many of them playing professionally abroad, while the Cook Islands searched via social media to find players who were eligible and available.

However, the Cook Islands had a brief sniff of glory, leading 6-5 after the first quarter with two penalties by Sam Vaevae after Fiji fullback Talebula had opened the scoring with a try 70 seconds after the kick off.

But at the 20 minute mark, Fiji tightened their performance after a horrendous run of misdirected passes and handling errors, and as their accuracy improved the try scoring began in earnest.

They scored four further tries to shut out the first half with a 29-6 lead before a second half blitz in which they scored a further 79 points with another 12 tries, eight conversions and an unexpected drop goal by Talebula.

Fiji now join Pool A at the World Cup alongside England, Australia, Wales and one other yet-to-be-decided team. - Sapa-AFP


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