The traditional Fijian cocktail of pace, power and athleticism was too much for Uruguay on a gloriously sunny afternoon at the Gillman’s Ground, home of Hartpury RFC.
The South Americans battled throughout, but found it difficult to live with the exuberant play of the islanders, who picked up five tries in each half to run out as comfortable winners.
The game was played in almost perfect conditions on a firm and well-grassed surface. Although a few degrees cooler than either of these teams might normally experience, there was nothing to stop either group of players from fully expressing themselves and the Fijians were quick to take advantage.
The outcome was, of course, no great surprise. Against the, mainly, semi-professional Uruguayans, Fiji had genuine world-class talent at their disposal.
Centre Vereniki Goneva (pictured) is well-known to British rugby fans for his exploits at the Falcons and, previously, Leicester. Joining him were players with top-flight careers – many in the French Top 14.
Second row forward Leone Nakawara, of Racing 92, is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, while Clermont back row forward, Peceli Yato, is no slouch either. Both were outstanding in this game.
Prop Campese Maafu (Tigers) is another with current Premiership experience. French top-flight rugby was further represented by Ben Volavola (Racing), Jale Vatubua (Pau), Josua Tuisova (Toulon) and Metuisela Talebula (Bordeaux-Begles).
Fiji were quickly into their stride and winger Eroni Sau was on the end of some slick handling to touch down with just five minutes played.
Next it was a strong carry from Nakarawa after Fiji had won an attacking line-out. Volavola carried on with a quick show and go, before feeding Talebula for a good finish.
Fiji were looking dangerous whenever they had the ball – which was often – and further tries came when Yato burst between a pair of Uruguay tacklers for his second, and more good handling put winger Tuisova in the clear.
At 28-0 – with Volavola having landed every kick so far, Fiji were cruising.
Uruguay were not without possession but they lacked the punch that the Fijians were able to show, particularly in the wider channels.
Scrum-half Santiago Arata was one Uruguayan player who did not look out of place and he got his reward for a sparky performance on the half-hour. The forwards established a platform on the Fijian 22 and Arata had both the vision and the pace to exploit a gap in the fringe defence. Berchesi converted to give the Uruguayans hope.
Normal service was, however, restored before the break, when Yato collected his second score of the match.
The second half started out as a slightly cagier affair as the Fijians appeared to lose a little of their earlier fluency.
However, they sprang back to life in emphatic fashion when debutant Sau added to his early score by wrapping up a memorable hat-trick with two tries in the space of four minutes.
Goneva was the architect for the first, his break and off-load giving Sau a run to the line. His big moment came when replacement backs Alivereti Veitokani and Eroni Vasiteri combined to put him away.
Yato’s powerful finish with 10 minutes to play made him the second player of the day to complete a treble and there was still time for hard-working flanker Semi Kunatani to get his reward with a score, while Volavola backed up an almost faultless kicking performance (nine from 10) with a try of his own in the final minute.
Both of these teams will appear at the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year, in Group D. Uruguay will want to continue their development in top-quality tournament play, while Fiji will ensure that countries like Australia and Wales (both in the same group, along with Georgia) can take nothing for granted.
For the locals, it was a great spectacle on a perfect day and something for the healthy crowd to remember.
Fiji: Talebula, Tuisova, Goneva, Vatubua, Sau, Volavola, Seniloli; Maafu, Dolokoto, Saulo, Tuisue, Nakarawa, Waqaniburotu, Kunatani, Yato. Bench: Vugakoto, Mawi, Tawake, Cavubati, Voka, Lomani, Veitokani, Vasiteri.
Uruguay: Silva, Leivas, Cat, Vilaseca, Mieres, Berchesi, Arata; Sanguinetti, Ardao, Rombys, Dotti, Leindekar, Gaminara, Segredo, Nieto. Bench: Pujadas, Benitez, Echeverria, Magno, Diana, Inciarte, Favaro, Prada.
Tries Sau 5, 57, 60; Talebula 10; Yato 14, 33, 69; Tuisova 23; Kunatani 74; Volavola 79.
Cons Volavola 6, 11, 15, 24, 34, 61, 70, 75, 80
Try Arata 31
Con Berchesi 32
Referee Tom Foley