26 November, 2017, 12:00 am
THE Fiji Bati played and sung their way into the hearts of rugby league fans everywhere this World Cup.
Friday night’s heavy 54-6 loss to Australia doesn’t change that.
There were very few people who thought Fiji could come to Suncorp Stadium and bring down the Goliath of the tournament.
They had already done the impossible the week before when they conquered the 2008 World Cup champions in New Zealand.
To back up that effort by taking down Australia was going to be a massive feat.
Fiji were gusty, brave and threw everything they had at the Australian team.
They played for every second, as was evident when Suliasi Vunivalu scored the team’s first try after 60 minutes, when they were already down 40-2.
They certainly went down with plenty of fight in them.
But it just wasn’t enough.
There were questions as to whether Fiji should have gone for a try in the sixth minute instead of a penalty goal.
In reality, it would not have made much of a difference.
While Fiji tried hard, Mal Meninga’s well-oiled machine look unbeatable at the moment.
No matter how much faith the Fijian players had, they just did not have the fitness, attacking structure or the defensive grit to beat that kind of professionalism — or the tryscoring prowess of Valentine Holmes.
And even though the Bati still have not managed to progress past the semi-finals stage at a World Cup, they can walk away from this tournament with their heads held high.
They are constantly working hard to bridge that gap between the second tier nations and the likes of Australia, and eventually that day will come.