Fantastic Fiji sink Ireland
Stunning World Cup run comes to an end at Skilled Park
Last Updated: 10/11/08 4:26pm
Fiji celebrate their 30-14 victory
Ireland's hopes of setting up a semi-final showdown with Australia were ended after Fiji produced an inspired second half performance to win 30-14 at Skilled Park.
The Irish, competing in their first ever semi-final qualifier, put in another spirited performance Down Under and were well in the contest until the Pacific Islanders cut loose in the second period.
With Ireland trailing 12-10 at the interval, Fiji ran in three further tries after the break as Andy Kelly's tiring troops wilted on the Gold Coast.
Damien Blanch crossed the whitewash twice and Scott Grix also made his way over the line during the 80 minutes, however the Irish were left to rue a below-par kicking display from the usually reliable Pat Richards.
The Irish took to the field full of confidence following their shock 34-16 win over highly-fancied Samoa as they chased the big prize of a last four clash with defending champions Australia.
Fiji captain Wes Naiqama struck the first blow scything past full-back Michael Platt for the opening try on two minutes after scrum-half Aaron Groom had re-gathered possession from Simon Finnigan's charge-down.
The Newcastle Knights centre added the conversion to make it 6-0 but the scores were level on seven minutes when Ireland right winger Blanch took Sean Gleeson's neat pass and evaded Darryl Millard and Jarryd Hayne on a thrilling 50-metre touchline run to claim his fourth try of the tournament.
Richards, the tournament's leading points scorer after the preliminary stages, kicked the conversion but missed a 40m penalty that would have put the Irish in front.
It was no surprise when the Pacific Islanders regained the lead, exciting right winger Akuila Uate, coming off his wing and evading the back-pedalling Irish defence to touch down.
But never-say-die Ireland hit back five minutes before half-time when stand-off Grix sidestepped his way through the Fiji defence for his side's second try.
This time Richards' conversion attempt hit the outside of the right-hand upright, to leave the Irish trailing by two points.
The Wigan Warriors kicker failed to reach the heights of his man-of-the-match display against Samoa and his fumble almost gifted a try to Fiji substitute James Storer within two minutes of the restart.
Ireland were hanging on at times but they almost scored a breakaway try when scrum-half Karl Fitzpatrick broke clear, however fellow substitute Ged Corcoran was brought down by the Fijian cover.
It proved to be Ireland's last chance as Fiji gradually wore them down.
Stand-off Alipate Noilea carved out a try for loose forward Jayson Bukuya before Hayne followed up a grubber kick from Groom and Uate took his try tally to five in three matches by taking Millard's pass to cross in the corner.
But Ireland, fittingly, had the final say when Blanch took an offload from second rower Lee Doran to score his fifth try of the tournament in the final minute.