- Ireland 23 - 20 Fiji
Ireland laboured to victory against Fiji at the Aviva Stadium, Ian Keatley’s penalty nine minutes from full time sealed the win for Joe Schmidt’s side.
Ireland had made 13 changes for the record breaking victory over South Africa a week ago and looked on course for an easy victory after opening up a 14 point lead but the Pacific Islanders with their trade mark physicality, intensity and unstructured running game made a fight of it in the second half.
It took Ireland just five minutes to unlock the Fijian defence, the forwards made a few hard yards into visitors 22 before Joey Carbery injected pace to a static move with a mazy run the out half looped a pass to Munster winger Darren Sweetnam to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try.
Ireland wasted a good opportunity to score their second try on 15 minutes, they patiently worked the ball through 12 phases in the Fiji 22 but Timoci Nagusa was able to force a turnover on Kieran Marmion.
Out half Ben Volavola opened Fiji’s account with a long range penalty on 20 minutes.
Winger Dave Kearney got Ireland’s second try on 23 minutes.
From a scrum in midfield Ireland attacked down the blind side, the ball was quickly moved from east to west with Stuart McCloskey coming onto a crash ball, the centre fed Andrew Conway and the full back provided the scoring pass to Kearney but Carbery’s conversion struck the upright.
Kearney had a try disallowed by the TMO on 32 minutes after Conway knocked on in the build up while challenging for the ball in the air with Timoci Nagusa.
However from the resulting scrum Fiji gifted Ireland a try, the visitors moved the ball infield but lock Apisalome Ratuniyarawa spilled it on halfway allowing No8 Jack Conan to pick up and gallop to the try line unopposed with Carbery converting.
Fiji produced a brilliant score on the stroke of half time to get back in the game, they decided to run from their own 22, the ball was moved the width of the pitch twice before Nemani Nadolo showed his pace to carry deep into Irish territory, the Montpellier winger put a grubber kick behind the defence which he was able to collect before offloading to scrum half Henry Seniloli to dart under the posts and Volavola’s conversion reduced Ireland’s lead to 17-10 at the interval.
The sides were level five minutes after the restart as Fiji got their second try, Kearney tried to launch a counter attack from his own 10 metre line but he threw a wild pass which Timoci Nagusa intercepted and the former Ulster winger raced over with Volavola converting.
Replacement out half Keatley restored Ireland’s lead on 65 minutes as flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu went off his feet at a ruck.
The scores were tied again on 68 minutes as Volavola struck a long range penalty after Jordi Murphy was caught offside in midfield.
Ireland hit the front again on 71 minutes with the decisive penalty from the Munster out half following a dangerous tackle by Kini Murumurivalu on Cian Healy.