Ireland survived a second half comeback to record their fourth victory over Fiji in their second test in the Guinness Series.
Ireland made a bright start and were first on the scoreboard through Darren Sweetnam. The Munsterman followed up a Joey Carbery break to score the first try. Ben Volavola converted a penalty for Fiji after the 20 minute mark to make it a two-point game.
The forwards were disjointed in the first 25 minutes, but Dave Kearney scored Ireland’s second try after good work from Stuart McCloskey. The Ulster centre had a solid outing providing some deft touches including a no-look pass which released Andrew Conway in the second half. Kearney thought he crossed for a second score after the half hour mark, however the try was ruled out after Conway knocked it on.
A loose Fijian pass was picked up by Jack Conan who crossed for Ireland’s third try on 33 minutes but Fiji struck back with a try of their own on the half time whistle. Nemani Nadolo gathered his own grubber kick before passing to Henry Seniloli to take the score to 17-10 at the break. At the break, Ireland were in cruise control and Fiji offered very little going forward that challenged the Irish defence bar a moment of magic from Montpellier winger, Nadolo.
Despite being the second best side in the first half, Fiji were the first on the scoreboard after the interval. Former Ulsterman Timoci Nagusa intercepted a pass from Dave Kearney to score a try. Volavola levelled the match with the following conversion much to the shock of the Irish crowd. It was a poor try to concede and one that allowed the away side back into the match.
The try lifted the touring side and a few nerves began to set into the Irish side. Seven changes were made to the Irish pack before the match and this was evident as Fiji had the upper hand and brought physicality to the rucks allowing them to turn the ball over on several occasions. The Irish front row was replaced before the hour mark and the arrival of Cian Healy brought much needed dynamism to a lacking pack. Healy was unfortunate not to score in the last ten minutes and made the second most metres of any Irish forward behind Jack Conan.
Ireland lost their talisman, Joey Carbery to injury on 64 minutes but his replacement, Ian Keatley, nudged Ireland ahead with a penalty on 66 minutes. From the restart Ireland failed to gather the restart and after Jordi Murphy was pinged for offside, Volavola once again tied the game up.
Keatley converted another penalty to take the score to 23-20 with eight minutes to go. Ireland held on to record an unconvincing victory but a good outing for many of the second string. Credit must go to a spirited Fijian side who outmuscled Ireland at the breakdown for much of the game. Next up for Ireland is the visit of Argentina next Saturday.