Tuqiri breaks Russia's spirit

Fiji won the battle of the Group One minnows in an entertaining World Cup game at Barrow yesterday. The loose forward Atunaisa Vunivalu ran in a second-half hat-trick to secure the victory, with the Brisbane Broncos winger Lote Tuqiri showing his class with 18 points.

Fiji won the battle of the Group One minnows in an entertaining World Cup game at Barrow yesterday. The loose forward Atunaisa Vunivalu ran in a second-half hat-trick to secure the victory, with the Brisbane Broncos winger Lote Tuqiri showing his class with 18 points.

Russia produced a spirited display and scored two tries courtesy of Robert Iliassov and Joel Rullis, but in the end found the going too tough.

It took Tuqiri five minutes to get the scoreboard turning as he carried a smart pass from Stephen Smith under the posts and Fiji extended their lead 10 minutes later when a slick move down the right involving Samu Marayawa and Waisale Sovatabua allowed Jone Kuraduadua to cross.

Tuqiri added the extras for his second goal and then helped himself to another try shortly afterwards creating the opening himself with a clever chip, and then took a reverse pass from Vunivalu to sprint over and give the islanders a comfortable 16-0 lead.

Russia were keen to show that they can play and snatched a try through Iliassov three minutes before the break. The full-back burrowed over from dummy-half to his obvious delight after Craig Cygler had carried the ball to the line. But any hopes they might have had of a comeback were quickly dispelled by Vunivalu after the restart.

The second-rower ran in for an easy score within two minutes, added a second five minutes later and helped himself to a third when Iliassov spilled Tuqiri's bomb. Huddersfield's Sovatabua rounded off the scoring two minutes from time.

A second try from Rullis was the least Russia deserved for their battling performance. The loose-forward ran on to a pass from Ian Rubin, the Sydney City prop, and touched down for a try efficiently converted by Mikhail Mitrofanov. With England and Australia to come, it was one to savour.

Rubin, who was born in Odessa but emigrated to Australia when he was four years old, said: "This was the first time I have played with them and I think in a few years they will be a good side. They lack a bit of basic skills but the conditions out there were difficult. I really enjoyed the game."

The Fiji coach Don Furner was proud of his players. "I am happy with the win and it's good for Fiji, after what they have gone through, and for rugby league. The training sessions this week have been outstanding, and the enthusiasm has completely lifted us because we have got a couple of quality players in our side."

FIJI: Tuqiri (Brisbane Broncos); Kuraduadua (Belligen), Sovatabua (Huddersfield), Navalu (Northern Eagles), V Tokarei (Tumbarumba); Tadulala (Brisbane West), Smith (Te Atatu); Tuiyabayaba (Bounty), Cakacaka (Cootamundra), Robart (New Zealand), Vakatawa (Tumbarumba), Tamani (Cabramatta), Marayawa. Substitutes used: Vunivialu (Sarua), Lasagavibau (Nadera), Vakarawa (Lismore), Vuniyayawa (Queenbayen).

RUSSIA: Iliassov (Arrow Kazan); Mitrofanov (Arrow Kazzan), Donovan (West Tigers), Cygler (Cairns Brothers), Romanov (Arrow Kazzan); Olari (Toulouse), Gavriline (Locomotiv Moscow); Rubin (Sydney City), Lysenkov (Locomotiv Moscow), Campbell (Redcliffe), Sokolov (Locomotiv Moscow), Findlay (Canterbury), Rullis (Wests Tigers). Substitutes used: Kalachkine (Arrow Kazzan), Netchaev (Locomotiv Moscow), Jiltsov (Locomotiv Moscow), Postnikov (Locomotiv Moscow).

Referee: R Smith (Eng).

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