Wallabies come good to see off Fiji
June 5, 2010
Kurtley Beale scored a double for the Wallabies
© Getty Images
A serious-looking knee injury to prop Ben Alexander marred Australia's first Test of the season as they secured a comfortable if not totally convincing 49-3 win over Fiji at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
The Wallabies lacked cohesion and relied more on individual ability than great team structure to rack up their seven tries, five of which came as the margin blew out in the second half.
Fiji put up a stern resistance in the first half before running out of puff and losing discipline in the second period. Their physical defence often rattled the Wallabies, who also lost wing Adam Ashley-Cooper with suspected ankle ligament damage.
Digby Ioane was Australia's most threatening outlet and he grabbed a deserved double along with the equally impressive Kurtley Beale, and Robbie Deans' midfield partnership of Quade Cooper at fly-half with Matt Giteau outside him got better as the match wore on.
Cooper laid on a number of assists and crossed for one try of his own in a performance that was more steady than explosive. Deans will be desperate to get Will Genia back from injury to reunite the Queensland Reds' dynamic 9-10 combination in the wake of a below-par display from Luke Burgess.
Alexander's second half injury occurred as his leg was caught awkwardly under a mass of players. Deans will be desperately hoping he hasn't lost another front rower given the injury problems already burdening that area of his squad ahead of the two-Test series against England and the Tri-Nations tournament.
Beale dropped a couple of early kicks to give the Ma'afu brothers, Salesi of Australia and Fiji's Campese, a chance to go head to head in the scrum. Fiji wing Sireli Bobo would have made Beale pay for his second error if he had received a kinder bounce from his attacking chip, but it was soon the Wallabies fullback opening the scoring at the other end after David Pocock took a quick tap and Cooper spun a perfect early pass out to the right.
Fiji centre Saula Radidi put on some bone-crunching hits close to his line to keep the Wallabies out and his efforts were soon rewarded as an Australian lineout infringement allowed Taniela Rawaqa to slot a penalty from 30 metres, sending the travelling band of Fiji fans into raucous celebrations.
The points lifted Fiji and they continued to defend stoutly while stringing phases together with the ball, and they conceded a somewhat undeserved late try on the stroke of half time. Cooper released debutant Rob Horne through a gap and his pop pass at the line kept sufficient momentum in the move to allow Richard Brown to score.
The Wallabies lifted a gear after the break and Cooper and Ioane capitalised on Fijian handling errors to touch down early in the second stanza. The frustration started to show in the Fijian ranks and Emosi Vucago was the man to see yellow that his team-mates had helped earn through consistent penalties.
Australia started to turn on the style to please the freezing crowd and replacement Drew Mitchell benefited from a perfect interchange between Cooper and Giteau to score with one of his first touches.
Ioane broke through and swapped passes with Beale in broken play to earn his second try, bringing Australia within a point of their half-century, in a happy night for the outside backs. Other than the headline-grabbing try-scorers Deans will be satisfied with the exemplary goal-kicking display from Giteau and the set-piece work by the forwards, who were led well by the ever-reliable Nathan Sharpe and captain Rocky Elsom in his 50th test.
The lack of time to gel and the level of opposition may have contributed to the performance but Deans will be hoping his new-look team can go to another level against the English.