Rugby World Cup 2015: Australia 28-13 Fiji

David Pocock - Australia v Fiji
David Pocock scored two of Australia's three tries
Australia (18) 28
Tries: Pocock (2), Kepu Cons: Foley (2) Pens: Foley (3)
Fiji (3) 13
Tries: Volavola Con: Nadolo Pens: Nadolo (2)

Australia made a stuttering start to their World Cup campaign as they failed to earn a bonus point in their win against Pool A rivals Fiji in Cardiff.

An even start saw Australia's Bernard Foley and Fiji's Nemani Nadolo trade penalties, before the Wallabies took control with two David Pocock tries.

Prop Sekope Kepu stepped over from close range to extend their lead after the restart, before Fiji fought back.

Ben Volavola reduced the gap, only for Foley's penalty to ease Aussie fears.

However, the Wallabies' inability to make their dominance count and score a fourth try to earn a bonus point means they are already a point behind England and Wales in a group containing four of the world's nine best teams.

Michael Cheika's side looked on course to match England's four-try victory over Fiji last Friday after a clinical first-half performance.

But, after scoring their third try within seconds of the restart, Australia lost their way as Fiji battled back with their free-flowing attacking approach.

Aussies among favourites

Holders New Zealand are the overwhelming favourites to defend their title, but the Wallabies have been touted as the team most likely to stop the All Blacks.

Australia have made great strides since Cheika took over last year, with the 48-year-old coach tightening up the Wallabies scrum, while refusing to compromise their adventurous attacking play.

And a ruthless performance in the opening 40 minutes at the Millennium Stadium seemed to justify Australian expectations of mounting a realistic challenge to lift their third World Cup.

Former Wales scrum-half Rob Jones on BBC Radio 5 live:
"I thought Australia were fantastic in the first half and early in the second. They controlled the game. Their set-piece is far better than we've seen in the past. They look a very accomplished side.
"They've got a lot of depth; they've got good quality players on the sidelines ready to come in. They were pressurised in the second half but they worked hard and defended well.
"It was the Fiji of old in the second half, with good handling and footwork. But Australia's defensive work has managed to keep them out - and this result is going to pretty much put Fiji out of any contention of going through."

After weathering early pressure, Cheika's side began to use their kicking game to pin back the Fijians and took control when Pocock twice finished driving mauls.

The Wallabies opened up the Fijian defence three minutes into the second half when Kepu showed nimble footwork to touch down.

But they failed to capitalise on this commanding position to win the extra point that both England and Wales managed in their opening matches.

Pocock and Hooper catch the eye

Australia v Fiji
Hooper (left) and Pocock led the Australia tackle count against Fiji, with flanker Hooper making 22 and number eight Pocock completing 16

Australia decided to select two open-side flankers in Michael Hooper and Pocock, with coach Cheika insisting the decision was "not rocket science".

And it reaped rewards as both men produced impressive displays.

The pair linked up well throughout, spoiling Fiji's attempts to play at the breakdown as Australia took command in the first half.

Pocock, playing at number eight, claimed the man of the match award.

Fiji play their part

Fiji coach John McKee claimed before the match that facing Australia's high-tempo game might suit his side better than England's more structured approach.

The Fijians impressed in the opening match against England, only to eventually lose 35-11 as the hosts' superior fitness and strength in depth told.

They are known for their entertaining brand of rugby, but showed in the opening 20 minutes against Australia that they also possess a strong scrum.

Five days after their gruelling defeat against England, many might have expected McKee's side to crumble as Australia eyed up the bonus point.

However, they looked fit and full of confidence during the final quarter, throwing the ball around as they tried to set up a close finish.

But Foley's third penalty condemned Fiji to defeat, leaving them with a seemingly impossible task to reach the quarter-finals.

Australia v Fiji
Fiji enjoyed more possession than Australia
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What they said

Australia coach Michael Cheika: "I thought it was a really good game, and a good workout for us. It was physical.

"I think at times in the second half, you could tell it was our first game in a while. The guys were blowing a bit. But we came through well.

"We haven't thought about the bonus point. It's not Super Rugby, it's the World Cup. I had to ask the question if they had the bonus point here because I don't think they have it in the northern hemisphere."

Fiji coach John McKee: "It was tough, we came here with high ambition and thought at our very best we could get a win.

"But it's been very hard to play England and then Australia five days later in two matches of such intensity.

"To play a lot of good rugby in those two games and come away with no points is disappointing, but it will give the guys extra resolve against Wales to make our mark."

Match stats

  • Australia are unbeaten in 16 games against Fiji, winning 14, drawing one and emerging victorious in the last 13 matches.
  • The Wallabies' previous four wins over the Islanders were all by margins greater than 40 points.
  • Fiji have scored a try in each of their last 30 Tests, last failing to score in their final game of the 2011 World Cup against Wales. This is the longest such current run in Test rugby.

Line-ups

Australia: Folau; Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Giteau, Horne; Foley, Genia; Sio, Moore (capt), Kepu, Douglas, Simmons, Fardy, Hooper, Pocock.

Replacements: Polota-Nau, Slipper, Holmes, Skelton, Mumm, Phipps, Toomua, Beale.

Fiji: Talebula; Nayacalevu, Goneva, Lovobalavu, Nadolo; Volavola, Matawalu; Ma'afu, Tuapati, Saulo, Cavubati, Nakarawa, Yato, Qera, Talei.

Replacements: Veikoso, Ravai, Colati, Soqeta, Ravulo, Kenatale, Matavesi, Tikoirotuma.

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