Vunivalu fires as Fiji advance in RLWC

By , Steve Zemek is a Roar Guru

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    Fijian tryscoring machine Suliasi Vunivalu has fired another warning shot to the rest of the Rugby League World Cup as the Bati aim for a third consecutive semi-finals appearance.

    After being the NRL’s top tryscorer in 2017, the Melbourne premiership-winning winger took his tournament tally to eight with a quickfire hat-trick in the Bati’s 38-10 victory over Italy in Canberra on Friday.

    Vunivalu – also the tournament’s leading tryscorer – crossed three times in eight minutes midway through the second half as Fiji advanced to the quarter-finals.

    Before Vunivalu crossed in the 60th minute, his side held just a six-point advantage after a forgettable opening half.

    However he quickly took the game away from Italy, prompting former NSW coach and commentator Laurie Daley to describe him as one of the best two wingers in the game along with Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr.

    “We were under the pump and they (Vunivalu’s tries) just pulled us away,” Fiji coach Mick Potter.

    “Suli was happy and all the Fijians were happy around the place. That’s a great feat and I don’t think that (three tries in eight minutes) is going to happen again anytime soon.”

    The Bati head into the quarter-finals unbeaten in their first three matches at the top of Group D and now face the loser of Saturday’s clash between Tonga and New Zealand.

    After advancing to the final four of the last two World Cups, they are placing high expectations on themselves but Potter warned they needed to show a lot of improvement to advance.

    The former Wests Tigers coach was concerned after his side made 14 errors and conceded 11 penalties and warned they needed to find a lot of improvement fast.

    “We need to get better. Tonight wasn’t good enough. To beat Tonga or New Zealand, we need to be better next week,” Potter said.

    In a woeful first-half marred by controversy, three players including Fiji’s star five-eighth Jarryd Hayne were sin-binned.

    Hayne was marched for 10 minutes alongside Italy hooker Joe Tramontana for their part in an all-in melee.

    Tramontana had to be held back by a security official and Italy staff member as he and Hayne went up the GIO Stadium tunnel.

    “I’m not sure it was warranted,” Potter said of Hayne’s sin-binning.

    “Jarryd went and someone else went. I’m not too bothered about it.”

    © AAP 2017