Find out how the Wallabies overcame a Fijian scare to win their opening match in Sapporo
Played – 22
Australia wins – 19
Fiji wins – 2
Draws – 1
Did You Know?
This was Australia’s biggest comeback win in World Cup history. They trailed by nine points – 21-12 – after 46 minutes but then scored 27 unanswered points.
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In a nutshell
Fiji came out firing in Sapporo, with Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova causing havoc among Australia’s defence, but it was two Fijians – and a Tongan – playing in Wallaby colours who eventually saw the two-time World Cup winners to victory.
Fiji took an 8-0 lead through the boot of Ben Volavola and a Peceli Yato try and while Australia hit back with Michael Hooper and Reece Hodge crossing, it was the islanders who led 14-12 at the break thanks to a couple more penalties from their fly-half.
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The second half began in a similar way to the first, Fiji’s attack catching out the Wallabies and Waisea Nayacalevu bursting through to score. Then Australia returned to the strength of their set-piece and Tolu Latu scored twice in the space of five minutes from close-range driving mauls.
Fiji’s penalty count ratcheted up – Levani Botia was sin-binned between Latu’s two scores – and they couldn’t escape their own half. This allowed Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete to cross and add a more comfortable feel to the scoreline of a match that was certainly not comfortable for the Wallabies.
The likes of Peceli Yato (before he went off midway through the first half with concussion), Levani Botia, Semi Radradra and Josua Tuisova showed the potential Fiji have at this World Cup, even if they couldn’t close out the match. The Wallabies were scrappy and Will Genia made a difference at nine when coming on, but it was Tonga-born hooker Tolu Latu who dragged them back into the contest with his quickly-taken brace and his accuracy in the set-piece was key too.
Australia captain Michael Hooper: “It was a testing match for us, going down like that in the fashion we did. Fiji really came out of the blocks aggressive. They’re big, physical guys, they really took it to us.
“I’m really proud of our guys, we regrouped, managed to work our set-piece really nicely into the game and ultimately that paid off really well for us.”
Fiji coach John McKee: “I’d like to say how improved the players were, how well we played in the first half. In the second half, unfortunately, it couldn’t go on.
“We gave away some critical errors, three or four penalties, and gave the Wallabies good field position. We had a bit of an inability to get out of our own half; that’s when they won some critical turnovers.”
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Australia: Kurtley Beale (Dane Haylett-Petty 70); Reece Hodge, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Christian Lealiifano (Matt To’omua 59), Nic White (Will Genia 52); Scott Sio (James Slipper 64), Tolu Latu (Jordan Uelese 64), Allan Alaalatoa (Sekope Kepu 64), Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold (Adam Coleman 68), David Pocock, Michael Hooper (captain), Isi Naisarani (Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 57).
Tries: Hooper 17, Hodge 35, Latu 57, 62, Kerevi 69, Koroibete 72. Cons: Lealiifano, To’omua 2. Pens: Hodge.
Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu (Alivereti Veitokani 74); Josua Tuisova, Waisea Nayacalevu, Levani Botia, Semi Radradra; Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani (Nikola Matawalu 71); Campese Ma’afu (Eroni Mawi 57), Samuel Matavesi (Tuvere Vugakoto 74), Peni Ravai (Manasa Saulo 57), Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), Peceli Yato (Mosese Voka 26), Viliame Mata (Tevita Ratuva HT).
Tries: Yato 7, Nayacalevu 43. Con: Volavola. Pens: Volavola 3.
Yellow card: Levani Botia 61.
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