Australia impressive as they muscle past Fiji in Cardiff

Michael Cheika’s side failed to get the bonus point but looked good in lineout and scrum

Sekope Kepu of Australia breaks past Tevita Cavubati of Fiji to score his side’s third try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Australia and Fiji at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, United Kingdom. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Sekope Kepu of Australia breaks past Tevita Cavubati of Fiji to score his side’s third try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Australia and Fiji at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, United Kingdom. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 

Australia 28 Fiji 13

Australia failed to secure a bonus point after fading in the final 20 minutes, but before that they had shown class and character in a match that was at times gruesomely physical but contained moments of high skill.

The Wallabies did not allow themselves to be drawn into an open, unstructured game, scoring their first two tries from driving lineouts and matching the ferocity of Fiji’s tackling. The ploy of playing David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the back row worked again, with the latter ruthless in the way he brought ball-carriers down.

Australia have repaired themselves from the rubble of 11 months ago and, if their attacking scrum made no impression on Fiji and their line-out fell apart in the final quarter, they look the most cohesive side in the group on the evidence of the opening week.

The opening exchanges were fierce: the wing Waisea Nayacalevu was injured in Fiji’s first attack of the game, twisting his right knee after a powerful tackle by Hooper, who was then knocked to the ground trying to challenge the wing’s replacement, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

The crowd was fervently behind Fiji, which will not be the case when they return here next week to face Wales and, after Bernard Foley has given the Wallabies the lead with a penalty, the islanders enjoyed a period of dominance without turning pressure into tries.

They equalised through the boot of Nemani Nadolo, but the second quarter was all Australia’s. They used five lineouts to harvest 15 points; 12 from two David Pocock tries from driving mauls, the first of which was converted by Foley, who added a further three with a penalty.

Fiji were down to 14 men by the time of Pocock’s second try. The prop Campese Ma’afu, who on his last appearance here in November against Wales was sent off for receiving two yellow cards, was banished to the sin-bin for kicking the ball out of the hands of the scrum-half Will Genia at a ruck.

Fiji, who needed to win after the opening night defeat to England, continued their indisciplined ways after the break and, after Israel Folau broke the defence, the prop Sekope Kepu finished off.

Fiji, though, were not finished. When the scrum-half Nikola Matawalu was replaced on 49 minutes, it seemed to liberate his half-back partner, Ben Volavola, who is based in Sydney with the Waratahs. One shimmering break led to the position from where he again jinked away from defenders and scored under the posts.

Australia’s quest for the bonus point was undermined when they lost three of their own lineouts in a row, the first five metres from Fiji’s line and plundered by Leone Nakarawa – a second row whose off-loads were one of the features of the night.

Foley’s third penalty put Australia 15 points ahead, but after the replacement prop James Slipper was taken off after appearing to be temporarily knocked out trying to tackle the flanker Paceli Yato, the Wallabies settled for what they had.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.