CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Winger Suliasi Vunivalu scored three times within 10 minutes on Friday to help Fiji secure a Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal spot with a 38-10 win over Italy in Pool D.
Fiji led 12-4 after a torrid first half but Italy cut the margin to two points with a freakish try from inside their own half, opportunistically kicking the loose ball twice up-field before Nathan Milone dived on a lucky bounce and scored under the posts.
Italy appeared set to take a surprise lead before Kevin Naiqama stripped the ball in a try-saving tackle on Mason Cerruto, setting Fiji up for a length-of-the-field try that turned the game back in his team's favor.
The big, powerful Fiji runners finished on top of a tiring Italy defense to secure top spot in the group and a quarterfinal match against the loser of Saturday's match between co-host New Zealand and Tonga at Hamilton.
The Canberra match was marred by an angry exchange in the tunnel after Fiji five-eighth Jarryd Hayne and Italy's Joe Tramontana were sin-binned for 10 minutes late in the first half. Tramontana appeared to react aggressively to a comment by Hayne and had to be restrained by team staff.
In other games Saturday, Samoa and Scotland will meet in Group B and Group A-leading Australia will host Lebanon in Sydney.
On Sunday, Papua New Guinea will be aiming to wrap up a quarterfinal spot from Group C when it plays the United States at home in Port Moresby before a double-header in Perth, where Ireland will play Wales and England faces France.