Australia labour to win over Fiji in World Cup opener

By Michael Schmitt - 21 September 2019Views : 230


It was far from easy, but Australia managed to get the job done eventually as they beat Fiji 39-21 in their Rugby World Cup opener in Sapporo on Saturday.

In an entertaining but tough and uncompromising encounter, the Pacific Islanders held the upper-hand for most of this match but the Wallabies took control of proceedings during the game’s latter stages and were deserved winners in the end.

Tolu Latu led the way for Australia with a brace of tries and Michael Hooper, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete also scored tries. There other points came via conversions from Christian Lealiifano and Matt To’omua (2) while Reece Hodge added a penalty.

For Fiji, Peceli Yato and Waisea Nayacalevu scored tries and Ben Volavola contributed 11 points after succeeding with three penalties and a conversion.

Fiji had most of the early possession and were up 8-0 after 10 minutes. They took the lead in the fifth minute courtesy of a Volavola penalty after Nic White was blown up for holding onto the ball at a ruck, and the game came alive shortly afterwards when Yato crossed for a brilliant try.

Josua Tuisova laid the groundwork with a strong run down the right-hand touchline and after bursting through two tackles he threw an inside pass to Nayacalevu, who found himself in space just outside the Wallabies’ 22. He was chased down by the cover defence but did well to offload to Yato, who went over in the right-hand corner.

Australia needed a response and that came in the 18th minute when Hooper ran onto a pass from White deep inside Fiji territory and shrugged off three defenders on his way over the try-line.

Lealiifano slotted the conversion but despite that setback, the Pacific Islanders continued to dominate and two penalties from Volavola gave them a 14-7 lead by the half-hour mark.

Five minutes later, the Wallabies narrowed the gap when Hodge crossed in the right-hand corner for their second try after slick hands from James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale created space for him out wide.

Lealiifano was off target off the kicking tee which meant Fiji had their tails up with the score 14-12 in their favour at half-time.

Fiji were fastest out of the blocks after the interval as four minutes after the restart Nayacalevu gathered a wayward pass from Samu Kerevi, close to the halfway line, and raced away before diving over under the posts.

The next 10 minutes was a slugfest with the Wallabies having most of the possession and after an extended period camped inside Fiji’s half, they were rewarded in the 56th minute when Latu scored their third try off the back of a lineout drive.

In the build-up to that score, referee Ben O’Keefe warned the Fijians for continuous indiscretions on defence and when Levani Botia infringed close to his try-line five minutes later, he was yellow carded for his transgression.

The resulting penalty was kicked into touch and after another lineout drive, Latu got over for his second try in similar fashion to his first. With a one-man advantage, the Wallabies continued to dominate and in the 69th minute Kerevi stepped past a couple of defenders before crossing for his side’s fifth try.

Three minutes later, Koroibete found himself in space out wide and he did well to round Vereniki Goneva to score the try which sealed his side’s win.