No 8 David Pocock scored two tries, both from the back of a driving maul, as the Wallabies secured a 28-13 win over Fiji in Cardiff on Wednesday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It was a solid, if unspectacular, performance from Australia in their opening World Cup match, and they will be relieved to have finally got their campaign underway at a stage when some teams have already played their second game.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika understandably picked a powerful side for their opening encounter, and so it was no real surprise that Fiji battled to live with the Aussies once they’d settled into their stride.
However, the islanders once again battled gallantly for large periods of the match, and did well to deny the Wallabies a bonus point, which looked very much there for the taking after scoring their third try early in the second half.
Fiji came into the clash after suffering a defeat to England on the opening day of the tournament, but they did prove to be a competitive foe on that occasion.
While the scores remained deadlocked at 3-3 after the opening quarter, there was a sense that the Wallabies were gradually getting on top, and in the 27th minute Pocock duly finished off the first try from a driving lineout.
And when prop Campese Ma'afu was yellow-carded for a ruck infringement around the half-hour mark, Pocock immediately made Fiji pay as he finished off another efficient drive.
The Wallabies’ superiority in terms of possession and territory in the first half provided an indication of the control they had over the game, with flyhalf Bernard Foley knocking over a penalty just before the break to give his side an 18-3 lead.
Big Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu then burst through the Fiji defence to score just after the restart as that advantage was extended to a commanding 22 points.
However, Fiji found their second wind and to their credit scored a deserved try when flyhalf Ben Volavola danced his way over to score under the posts on the hour mark.
Fiji certainly finished with a flourish, and it could have got interesting when Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani was sent to the sin bin in the 73rd minute, but in the end the Wallabies held out for a hard-fought win.
Wallabies – Tries: David Pocock (2), Sekope Kepu. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalties: Foley (3).
Fiji – Try: Ben Volavola. Conversion: Nemani Nadolo. Penalties: Nemani Nadolo (2).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Fiji – 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Subs: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Isei Colati, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images