Understrength Ireland pip Fiji 23-20 in Dublin
DUBLIN (AP) — An inexperienced Ireland team was given a big scare by Fiji before winning their rugby test 23-20 at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Ireland appeared to be coasting to a straight-forward win when they built a 17-3 lead about half an hour in.
But a try on the stroke of halftime by scrumhalf Henry Seniloli and an intercept try by winger Timoci Nagusa five minutes after the break brought Fiji level at 17-17.
Ultimately, two penalties by substitute flyhalf Ian Keatley proved enough for Ireland to prevail unconvincingly.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt retained just two starters from the side that thumped South Africa 38-3 the previous week, and despite this they made an encouraging start.
Fylhalf Joey Carbery broke to set up right wing Darren Sweetnam’s early try.
Following a Fiji penalty kick, Ireland fullback Andrew Conway drew two defenders and put in wing Dave Kearney. No. 8 Jack Conan then capitalized on spilled ball and ran in from 40 meters. Carbery’s extras made it 17-3.
Just when halftime beckoned, Fiji left wing Nemani Nadolo evaded Conway, kicked ahead and gathered, and gifted Seniloli a try between the posts.
Encouraged, Fiji came out of the break in good mood, turning to celebration when Nagusa picked off Kearney’s attempted pass to debutant center Chris Farrell. Ben Volavola converted again to draw level and have Ireland rattled.
Carbery, who survived a big tackle from Nadolo in the first half, didn’t rebound from a tackle by Peni Ravai in the second, and left what appeared to be a wrist injury.
His replacement Keatley restored Ireland’s lead in the 65th with his first penalty kick, but Volavola matched it.
Fiji fullback Kiri Murimurivalu was lucky not to be yellow-carded when he lifted prop Cian Healy legs over his head, but Ireland made him pay when Keatley nailed what proved to be the winning penalty in the 73rd.
Ireland has won all four of its tests against Fiji, all in Dublin, but this was easily the closest.