Israel Folau and Henry Speight both scored a brace of tries as the Wallabies secured a 37-14 win over Fiji in Melbourne on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Although the Australian teams have left a lot to be desired in Super Rugby this year, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will be pretty pleased with this opening-season display on the international stage.
Folau and flyhalf Bernard Foley were typically influential, but there was also impressive all-round cohesion from a relatively new-look Wallabies outfit, as illustrated through their abrasive defence, which kept the Fijians scoreless for over an hour of play.
The Wallabies displayed a clear desire to keep the ball in hand early on, while looking to deprive the dangerous Fijians of possession.
It was a strategy that initially proved to be highly effective, with both Folau and Speight going over for tries in the opening quarter as the Wallabies exploited space out wide, first with an effective cross-kick and then through quick inter-passing.
Even when Fiji had a one-man advantage after Folau was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle in the 20th minute, the only points would come from Australia, as Foley slotted a second penalty soon after.
To be fair, the islanders did slowly settle into their stride and displayed some of the threats that they possess on attack, but a late missed penalty from flyhalf Ben Volavola meant they had nothing to show for an improved second-quarter performance.
The result was then well and truly sewn up when a lovely set-play move saw Folau cut through the defence and dart away to score his second try with just over 20 minutes to play.
Fiji did finally open their account when big winger Vereniki Goneva broke away to score in the 63rd minute, but former Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore dotted down from the back of a lineout drive soon after to help restore a 25-point advantage.
Fiji managed to score a late consolation try to Timoci Nagusa, but the Wallabies would have the final say as Speight went over to secure his brace with the final play of the game, with Australia now set for Tests against Scotland and Italy.
Wallabies – Tries: Israel Folau (2), Henry Speight (2), Stephen Moore. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3). Penalties: Foley (2).
Fiji – Tries: Vereniki Goneva, Timoci Nagusa. Conversions: Ben Volavola (2).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge.
Fiji – 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Akapusi Qera (c), 7 Naulia Dawai, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Peni Ravai, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Maáfu.
Subs: 16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nemani Nagusa, 22 Seurpepeli Vularika, 23 Benito Masilevu.
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images