The Wallabies mixed great expansive play with poor goal kicking in their 67-5 win over the USA in Wellington.
The Wallabies scored 11 tries in this one-sided contest, with winger Adam Ashley-Cooper starring with a hat-trick and outside centre Anthony Faingaa grabbing a brace. But the extent of this dominance wasn’t evident on the scoreboard early in the second half as four conversions were missed after the first six tries. This was because of the inaccurate goal kicking by flyhalf Quade Cooper and fullback Kurtley Beale, who missed the four attempts. Replacement flyhalf Berrick Barnes restored some respectability with the boot, slotting the extras from four of the final five tries.
This would be head coach Robbie Deans’ biggest concern as goal kicks will play a vital part in the knock-out stages. While it didn’t mean much in this fixture, missed points will cost the Wallabies against a stronger opponents – as it did against Ireland in the first half.
With Cooper and Beale inconsistent with the boot, Deans will have to include the more accurate James O’Connor (missed this match with a hamstring injury) or Barnes in his starting line-up. The latter wouldn’t be a poor choice at pivot as he had a superb all-round performance coming off the bench in the second stanza against the Eagles.
There was more bad news for the Wallabies as replacement centre Pat McCabe left the field shortly before full-time with a dislocated shoulder, which is set to end his tournament. Faingaa was also knocked out cold at the death after getting kneed in the head during an attempted tackle.
But either than that, the Wallabies would be delighted with their attacking performance. The forwards had the upper hand against their counterparts, giving the backline the platform to run riot. And with USA struggling with a weak scrum and committing frequent handling and defensive errors, the Wallabies backs excelled.
Apart from a scrappy opening eight minutes and a five-minute period of impressive play from the Americans, Australia dominated the first stanza. Inside centre Rob Horne, flanker Rocky Elsom and Beale all finished off long range attacking moves before Faingaa crashed over from close range to seal the four-try bonus point. UCT-based eighthman JJ Gagiano scored the USA’s only points of the match from a 5m scrum. The half-time score read 22-5.
The Wallabies produced a strong second half display to finish off their comprehensive win. They crossed the chalk on six occasions before the Eagles were reduced to 14 men after fullback Blain Sculley was yellow-carded for a professional foul in the 74th minute. The Australians scored one more try with their one-man advantage through replacement No 8 Radike Samo.
By Gareth Duncan