Planet Rugby

Wallabies trample Cherry Blossoms

08th September 2007 14:38

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Aussie hand off Japan

Fended off: Palu sets the example

Australia hit the 2007 World Cup running on Saturday, with a comprehensive 91-3 win over Japan in their Pool B clash in Lyon.

After weathering an initial Japanese storm, the Wallabies' backs began to tick over, building on the abrasive work of their pack, and in the second half they clicked into top gear, running in a welter of tries.

Australia hit the 2007 World Cup running on Saturday, with a comprehensive 91-3 win over Japan in their Pool B clash in Lyon.

After weathering an initial Japanese storm, the Wallabies' backs began to tick over, building on the abrasive work of their pack, and in the second half they clicked into top gear, running in a welter of tries.

The conditions at the Stade Gerland spelt trouble for the Cherry Blossoms, with sunny skies and not a hint of wind meaning the Wallabies would run at them at every opportunity they were given.

And boy did they run. The opportunities were eventually handed to Australia on a silver platter as they gobbelled up a whopping thirteen tries in a record victory over Japan.

It was always going to be one way traffic for the men in green and gold, but they certainly didn't get the start they wanted as Japan pulled out all the stops in an exhilarating opening quarter.

So much so, that it took the two-time rugby world champions ten whole minutes to register their first points in the 2007 tournament - and was thanks to a Stirling Mortlock penalty kick at that.

Japan played like true Kamikaze warriors, putting their bodies on the line in defence and taking huge hits on attack. John Kirwin's side stayed in touch for most of the first half but were never a real threat.

Far too much possession was aimlessly kicked away, and because of this led the Wallabies to counter-attack and put themselves in handy try-scoring positions.

Having not played a Test match in seven weeks, Australia were always going to be a bit rusty going into this game. Some passes failed to go to hand and on a couple of occasions - passes slipped out of hands too. But once the Wallabies found their rhythm, they oozed class in every facet of play.

The turning point came after a powerful 22 metre drive led to lock Nathan Sharpe powering over in the 18th minute - it took that long for Australia to notch up their first try. Mortlock slotted his first of seven successful conversions for Australia.

The first half belonged to Mortlock's boot, Rocky Elsom's brace of tries and Japan's never-say-die attitude that eventually led to rookie Kosei Ono nailing a 40m penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Even though a monstrous 61 tackles were missed by the Japanese, Australia could still only muster up a 23-3 lead going into the break.

The half-time oranges in France must be filled with something spectacular as the group of Australians that came marching out in the second spell put in a performance the fans were expecting from them.

Nothing could stop the Wallabies in the next 40 minutes which must have felt like 40 hours to Japan.

The floodgates opened from the re-start as Elsom burst his way through two would-be defenders for his hat-trick, showing some good pace on the way to the line too.

Even though Japan played a more running game in the second, it was a high up-and-under kick launched on Chris Latham that ended in Adam Ashley Cooper dotting down for the backline's first try of the match.

Latham picked up a brace himself - the second coming off some classy soccer skills that ended in the veteran full-back winning a foot race to the line.

The Wallabies never once took their foot off the gas or even bothered to re-fuel their charging engine as more tries were run in one after another.

Even promising youngster Berrick Barnes got in on the action for Australia, scoring a brace of tries on debut.

Australia coach John Connolly will happy with the impact his replacements also had on the match, with Drew Mitchell putting in a tremendous performance that led to a brace of tries to the Western Force winger.

The only issue Connolly will have a sleepless night over was an injury picked up by winger Mark Gerrard who was helped off the field not long after going on as a replacement.

Other than that, the Wallabies have got their 2007 World Cup campaign off with a bang and - based on their second half performance - look to be a serious contenders for the trophy.

For Japan, it's back to the drawing board. But at least the worst is over.

Man of the match: Always a tough one to call from scorelines of this big margin. Though before we point out the nominations in the Australia camp, a mention must go to number eight Hajime Kiso and scrum-half Yuki Yatomi of Japan. Kiso was very impressive in the line-outs and the scrums for the Cherry Blossoms - a task that was always going to so tough, yet made so easy by his courageous play. Yatomi linked with Kiso well and was a little thorn in the Wallabies side whenever he spotted a gap. For Australia, flank George Smith and number eight Wycliff Palu were everywhere. Stirling Mortlock and Drew Mitchell were the pick of the backs, but our vote goes to Rocky Elsom. The hard-working flank not only picked up a hat-trick of tries, but carried the ball with distinction and was full of enterprising play from start to finish.

Moment of the match: One could pick any one of the thirteen tries from the rampant Australians. But we going to go for the loudest cheer - and that came from the young Japan rookie Kosei Ono when he stepped up and nailed a tricky penalty to give his country their only points in the match.

Villain of the match: Nobody. A couple of pushing and shoving here and there, but a match played in good spirit.

The scorers:

For Australia:

Tries: Sharpe, Elsom 3, Ashley-Cooper, Latham 2, Barnes 2, Mitchell 2, Smith, Freier

Cons: Mortlock 7, Giteau 3

Pens: Mortlock 2

For Japan:

Pen: Ono

Australia: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Matt Giteau 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan (vc), 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith (vc), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Matt Dunning.

Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Guy Shepherdson, 18 Hugh McMeniman, 19 Stephen Hoiles, 20 Berrick Barnes, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Mark Gerrard.

Japan: 15 Tatsuya Kusumi, 14 Tomoki Kitagawa, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Nataniela Oto, 11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Hajime Kiso, 7 Takamichi Sasaki (c), 6 Yasunori Watanabe, 5 Luatangi Samurai Vatuvei, 4 Takanori Kumagae, 3 Ryo Yamamura, 2 Taku Inokuchi, 1 Masahito Yamamoto

Replacements: 16 Yuji Matsubara, 17 Tomokazu Soma, 18 Hitoshi Ono, 19 Hare Makiri, 20 Tomoki Yoshida, 21 Yuta Imamura, 22 Kosuke Endo

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Television match official: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)

Assessor: Bob Francis (New Zealand)

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