Australia knew Fiji were going to start their Rugby World Cup clash “like fury” and Michael Cheika was frustrated they did not manage it better.
The Wallabies committed four turnovers as they fell 14-7 down in the opening 25 minutes at the Sapporo Dome, Peceli Yato crossing in addition to a trio of penalties from Ben Volavola.
Fiji extended their advantage to 21-12 after half-time but Australia battled back in the final half an hour to secure a 39-21 victory to kick off their campaign in Pool D.
Hooker Tolu Latu touched down twice, with Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete getting in on the act late on.
“I’m not going to complain at all. They’re a dangerous team, we know them very well, their players,” said Cheika.
“It’s what we expected. We probably didn’t expect to be as far behind, but we knew the start of the game would be like fury from the other team and we made a few errors that let them into it, but we recomposed ourselves and got back to basics and were able to get it done.
“We didn’t target [the rolling maul] in particular for this game, but this is the World Cup; no scrum, no maul, no line-out – we had a few line-out issues tonight – no win. So you need to start with that stuff.
“I know it’s not generally assigned to Australia, but to be able to do the other things we want to do we need that.”
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 21, 2019
Michael Hooper and Reece Hodge scored first-half tries for the Wallabies and the captain was proud of the way they reacted to falling behind.
“It was a testing match for us going down like that in the fashion we did. Fiji really came out of the blocks aggressive, they’re big physical guys and they took it to us,” said Hooper.
“Really proud of our guys for regrouping, managed to work our set-piece really nicely into the game and ultimately that paid off for us.”
Levani Botia was sin-binned with Fiji leading 21-20 in the second period and Australia ran in two tries in his absence, a factor skipper Dominiko Waqaniburotu rued.
“It was a disappointing result at the end but I thought we played well in the first half,” said Waqaniburotu.
“It’s just a lot of things we need to work on for the next game, the discipline let us down in the second half and that cost us a player. We did well, but we need to improve more if we want to compete in this competition.
“We’ve got a couple of niggles after this game. We’ve got to go back to recover and take a sharp turnaround to get back for the game against Uruguay [on Wednesday].”
Australia are not in action again until they face Wales in a blockbuster clash at Tokyo Stadium on September 29.
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