Australia Second Half Surge Defeats Fiji

Sixth-ranked Australia opened their 2019 Rugby World Cup beating ninth-ranked Fiji 39-21on 21 September in a Pool D match at the Sapporo Dome. It was a tale of the halves as Fiji had a 14-12 lead at the break.

Match Recap

Australia kicked deep and blocked a Fiji clearance kick. Fiji recovered and was able to clear from a box kick.

After a Fijian grub kick went into touch deep inside Australian territory, the Wallabies were penalized and Ben Volavola slotted a penalty goal to lead 3-0.

From the ensuing restart, Fiji attacked wide right with Peceli Yato finishing with a try in the right corner. Volavola’s conversion attempt from near touch drifted to the left of the posts, 8-0.

The Wallabies got on the board after attacking form a scrum with Michael Hooper scoring from close range. Christian Lealiifano then slotted the kick to cut the lead to 8-7.

Fiji extended their lead after a tackle led to an Australia turnover. An Australian penalty resulted in a Volavola penalty goal, 11-7. After a high tackle by Australia, Volavola slotted another, 14-7.

A high tackle by Fiji had the Wallabies rejecting to kick at goal and launched an attacked from a lineout 5-meters from in-goal. After multiple picks by the forwards, the ball was spun wide right with Reece Hodge scoring in the right corner to cut the lead to 14-12. The ensuing kick by Lealiifano was wide left.

The first half was a physical battle with Fiji creating turnovers and counter-attacking.  The Wallabies attack was stymied by multiple penalties and led to Fiji scores. Despite the excellence defense by Fiji, Australia scored two tries to keep the stellar performance by Fiji close.

Second Half

A handling error by the Wallabies was gathered by Waisea Nayacelevu, who then raced in-goal under the posts for a try making the Volavola conversion an easy one to push the lead to 21-12.

The Wallabies appeared to be poised to answer back, but a poach at the breakdown 7-meters from in-goal allowed Fiji to clear.

Australia was able to cut the lead to 21-15 after a penalty goal by Reece Hodge.

Following three consecutive penalties by Fiji, Australia attacked from a 5-meter lineout and mauled with Tulu Latu scoring to cut the lead to 21-20. Hodge’s conversion attempt was wide right.

From the ensuing restart, Marika Koroibete had a long break for the Wallabies. After a penalty by Fiji, Levani Botia was sent to the bin and the Wallabies capitalized with Latu scoring a brace to take Australia’s first lead 25-21. Matt To’omua was the third kicker used, but the result was the same as the kick was off the mark.

The Wallabies attacked again from the restart and moved the ball to within a couple of meters from in-goal, but a poach by Fiji at the breakdown, allowed them to clear short. Australia then utilized numbers with Samu Kerevi adding a try, with Matt To’omua converting to extend their lead to 32-21.

Soon after, Marika Koroibete added another near the left corner with To’omua converting for a 39-21 lead.

The insertion of Will Genia provided a spark for the Wallabies in the second half. The early pressure by Australia led to four penalties with Levani Botia sent to the bin after the multiple team infractions. The Wallabies capitalized, gained the momentum, and then finished with the win.

Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu was named Player of the Match with his two tries.

Squads & Match Preview

Australia: 1. Scott Sio (59 Tests) 2. Tolu Latu (15 Tests) 3. Allan Alaalatoa (33 Tests)  4. Izack Rodda (21 Tests) 5. Rory Arnold (22 Tests) 6. David Pocock (78 Tests) 7. Michael Hooper (c) (95 Tests) 8. Isi Naisarani (4 Tests) 9. Nic White (26 Tests) 10. Christian Lealiifano (22 Tests) 11. Marika Koroibete (24 Tests) 12. Samu Kerevi (VC) (29 Tests) 13. James O’Connor (48 Tests) 14. Reece Hodge (37 Tests) 15. Kurtley Beale (87 Tests) 16. Jordan Uelese (4 Tests) 17. James Slipper (91 Tests) 18. Sekope Kepu (106 Tests) 19. Adam Coleman (34 Tests) 20. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (16 Tests) 21. Will Genia (105 Tests) 22. Matt To’omua (47 Tests) 23. Dane Haylett-Petty (33 Tests)

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