Australia powered past Fiji 39-21 to open their Rugby World Cup campaign with a win on Saturday.
After a sloppy start, the Wallabies powered to victory in the Pool D clash in Sapporo, with Tolu Latu scoring two tries during a much-improved performance in the second half.
Michael Cheika’s side trailed for most of the contest, taking their first lead with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Fiji capitalised on a nervous and sloppy start from Australia, but their winless run against the Wallabies stretched to 18 games.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 21, 2019
The Wallabies were punished early, Ben Volavola landing the first points before Peceli Yato went over down the right after just seven minutes.
Australia needed a response and they got it through their skipper, Michael Hooper crashing over in the 17th minute after strong work from the forward pack.
Fiji had the Wallabies rattled, Australia committing four turnovers in the opening 25 minutes as the boot of Volavola helped Fiji into a 14-7 lead.
However, Australia capitalised on a penalty for a high tackle with their second try, Reece Hodge – who made a couple of vital defensive plays – crossing in the corner with five minutes left in the first half.
The Wallabies were punished for another error early in the second half, Fiji incredibly taking a 21-12 lead, Waisea Nayacalevu racing away after a poor Samu Kerevi pass.
Australia piled on the pressure to get Latu over, but Hodge – who had earlier converted a penalty – missed the chance to give his side their first lead of the game.
The Wallabies were in control by this point, showing far greater patience on their way to taking the lead after Levani Botia was sin-binned, Latu crashing over again from a driving maul.
Australia made their dominance count late on and Kerevi ran through a Semi Radradra tackle to pull the Wallabies further clear, Marika Koroibete then sealing the win after a brilliant quick pass from Dane Haylett-Petty.
Worries for Wallabies
Wallabies coach Cheika will be hoping his team’s struggles in the opening 45 minutes were down to nerves. Australia were impatient and made poor errors, giving Fiji a boost they almost took full advantage of.
Despite their impressive opening, Fiji had no answers in the final half an hour. The Wallabies scored 27 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes to overrun a tiring Fiji.
Key Opta Facts
– Fiji were defeated in a Test after holding the lead at half-time for the first time since July 2015; they had been undefeated in 14 such games since (W13, D1).
– Latu became the third hooker in World Cup history to score multiple tries in a game when he bagged a second-half double (Keith Wood – 4, Phil Greening – 2).
– Fiji’s 14 first-half points scored was their most ever in the opening period of a single game against Australia, eclipsing the 11-9 half-time lead they held over the Wallabies in June 1961.
– Koroibete made a game-high four clean breaks, the last time any Wallabies player made more in a World Cup game was during the 2003 edition.
The Wallabies’ campaign continues with a blockbuster clash against Wales on September 29, while Fiji face Uruguay on Wednesday.
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