CREMONA, Italy -- Italy celebrated 100 caps for captain Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni by beating a Fiji side reduced to 11 men at one point 37-31 on Saturday.
Despite the advantage of four Fijians being sent to the sin-bin in eight minutes early in the first half, Italy almost spoiled the occasion for two of their rugby greats by blowing a 30-10 lead with 20 minutes to go.
Fiji scored three converted tries to pull within six with five minutes left, but time ran out, and Fiji missed out on a fifth straight win to match their record runs in 1934 and 1999.
"I wanted to celebrate with a win, but not suffering so much," Parisse said. "But after the heavy defeat against Australia, we had to win and we did so.
"Certainly, there are so many things to improve on but you can work more calmly when you get a positive result."
Fiji also had replacement Sisa Koyamaibole sent to the sin bin late on to set an unwanted international record of the most yellow cards by one team in a match.
As early as the third minute, Fiji flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu was warned that he was fortunate not to be yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle which forced Luca Morisi out of the match and gifted three points to Luciano Orquera.
The first try arrived in the ninth minute with a swift counterattack after Orquera lost the ball to centre Asaeli Tikoirotuma, who raced almost the entire length of the pitch before offloading to fullback Metuisela Talebula.
Captain Akapusi Qera was the first to be sin-binned in the 21st for lashing out at scrumhalf Edoardo Gori after play had already been stopped for a penalty.
Qera was swiftly joined in the bin by Tikoirotuma for a dangerous tackle and No. 8 Sakiusa Matadigo for a high tackle, and Italy took the lead with a second Orquera penalty.
It worsened for Fiji as inside centre Nemani Nadolo was binned for an intentional knock down. Against 11 men, Italy drove Parisse across in a rolling maul for a converted try.
Qera came back but Italy managed a second try, with fullback Luke McLean forcing his way over between two tacklers, and Italy bumped its lead to 20-5.
Another Orquera penalty started the second half, but Fiji reduced the deficit through a Nagusa try.
The Fijians continued to sabotage themselves with more indiscipline. Orquera missed another penalty but Italy extended its lead in the 58th with a penalty try. But up 30-10, Italy was looking far from convincing.
Nadolo claimed a try, but Fiji had a fifth yellow card when Koyamaibole was punished for a shoulder charge on Tommaso Iannone. Italy thought it sealed the match when Fijian-born Manoa Vosawai scored for 37-17 with 10 minutes remaining.
However, winger Napolioni Nalaga crossed and Nagusa grabbed his second try of the match while Parisse was in the sin-bin.
Italy hung on without its captain for its first win since March, ending a streak of four losses.
Italy 37 (Sergio Parisse, Luke McClean, Manoa Vosawai tries; penalty try; Luciano Orquera 3 conversions, 3 penalties, Tommaso Allan conversion), Fiji 31 (Timoci Nagusa 2, Metuisela Talebulamaijaina, Nemani Nadolo, Napolioni Nalaga tries; Seremaia Bai 3 conversions). HT: 20-5