Planet Rugby

Australia flex their muscle against Fiji

09th June 2007 12:31

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Tuqiri

Tuqiri: A brace of tries on his return

Australia recorded a comfortable 49-0 victory over a spirited Fiji on Saturday at the Subiaco Oval in Perth led by a Lote Tuqiri brace on his return to the Wallabies side.

These 80 minutes of Rugby Union, classified as making up a full match of Test rugby, did no favours for the sport concerned, nor for sport itself.

It did not look like Test rugby, the players did not play with the urgency and vigour normally associated with the top flight of one of humanity's proudest sports, and neither did the commentary nor crowd display the passion traditionally given to an international clash.

The Wallabies, never showing any real cohesion nor skill, cantered to an absolute cake-walk of a victory, over a Fijian side looking like the poor son that professionalism forgot.

Tuqiri, the star of the match, and a Fijian-born Australian, has just come off the back of a three-week speed training programme in the midst of the international season.

The fact that, in the midst of professionalism, the low quality of a so-called top 15 side in the world, Fiji, have to come up against an opposition with that amount of backing behind them, is laughable.

What is also laughable is the poor performance of Australia, who have none of the setbacks that the Fijians can claim.

The Fijians looked like a nation that sees no real domestic competition, and does not play together much at all.

They showed glimpses of competitiveness in the opening exchanges, with the brave play of scrumhalf Moses Rauluni, and skipper and number eight Alifereti Doviverata poking some holes in the inside channel, but they simply do not possess the skill and accuracy at the phase interchange to stay in the game with any decent opposition.

The Australians, meanwhile, were clearly aiming for a larger degree of control in their game.

That endeavour, however, was poorly executed.

Their forward drives off the lineout are weak and lacking intent, and the loping passes of Matt Dunning and Phil Waugh gave the impression of a training game.

Early on, their scrum appeared to be heading for trouble, but after the Fijians were blown up for early hits, they over-compensated with a lack of a hit at all, and the Australians gained the ascendancy.

With complete dominance in all phases of the game, the Wallabies shut Fiji out completely, and, from that position, the fact they did not score at will, speaks volume for the trouble in which Australian rugby finds itself.

The Wallaby backs showed a desire to play the ball wide, with Julian Huxley and the new centre combination of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Scoot Staniforth showing penetration and go-forward early on, running good lines. In fact the centres probably were the only players of Australia who came out with any credibility.

Stephen Larkham was strangely loose, and, while he did some good things, he also caused a lack of congruency amongst his outside backs.

It was a break of Ashley-Cooper that opened the first points of the game, when he fed Staniforth to go over for the first try

After kicking the conversion and then a penalty - which then gave way to some mostly poorly aimed attempts - Huxley made the next break, to then double off Drew Mitchell for another try in the same corner.

Lote Tuqiri marked his comeback with a run off Staniforth's inside shoulder to go over after that, and from then on, the Wallabies spent their time fumbling towards the Fijian line off the back of their mistakes and scoring when they managed to put a penetrative move together.

They attempted a greater foward-oriented game, but that simply does not befit them.

The halfbacks must be of concern to the Wallabies - Gregan showed why many critics say he does not break enough (he simply is not an attacking force) while Larkham is showing an ineptitude in connecting with his inside centre.

It must be said however that these two legends of the game do not have the same thirteen players around them as in their heydey, when the Wallabies possessed the nuance and verve to all run the right lines of their two playmakers at nine and ten.

The Fijians did their best to defend a side they simply were unequipped to play against, and, at various times, they went offsides in that bid to simply stay in the game.

Ultimately, this wasn't a genuine game of rugby, and the fans and the game and the wider rugby community is the poorer for it.

Man of the match: He scored three tries, and for that reason alone, Lote Tuqiri is our Man of the Match.

Villain of the match: When there is no battle, there ceases to be villainy. One is tempted to name the yellow-carded Henry Qiodravu, tighthead prop of Fiji, but one can hardly blame him for doing his best to stop the one-way traffic.

Moment of the match: The final whistle put an end to the debacle, and for that it must be merited.

The Scorers:

For Australia:

Tries: Staniforth 2, Tuqiri 2, Huxley, Larkham, Norton-Knight, Ashley-Cooper

Cons: Huxley 3

Pen: Huxley

Yellow Card: Henry Qiodravu - Fiji (38th minute - killing the ball)

The Teams:

Australia: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Scott Staniforth, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan (vice-captain), 8 David Lyons, 7 Phil Waugh (captain), 6 Mark Chisholm, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Matt Dunning.

Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Stephen Hoiles, 19 George Smith, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Sam Norton-Knight, 22 Stirling Mortlock

Fiji: 15 Marika Vakacegu, 14 Mosese Luveitasau, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Isoa Neivua, 10 Jo Tora, 9 Moses Rauluni, 8 Alifereti Doviverata (captain), 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Apolosi Satala, 5 Kele Leawere, 4 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 3 Henry Qiodravu, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Graham Dewes.

Replacements: 16 Bill Gadolo, 17 Apisai Turukawa, 18 Wame Lewaravu, 19 Tomasi Soqeta, 20 Vitori Buatava, 21 Jack Prasad, 22 Taniela Rawaqa.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand), Mark Lawrence (Scotland)

Television match official: Jonathon White (New Zealand)

Assessor: Andrew Cole (Australia)

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