Australia win without bonus point

Date published: September 23 2015

Australia got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start on Wednesday as they overcame a spirited Fijian side 28-13 at the Millennium Stadium.

While they didn't pick up the try bonus-point like England five days ago, it was a streetwise pool start from the recent Rugby Championship winners in Cardiff.

The combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper together in the back-row again offered plenty of dynamism while Matt Giteau organised well at centre.

Of course tougher fixtures will arrive in the coming weeks as after Uruguay it's crunch time against England and then finally Wales in this pool of death.

But a three-try triumph will do nicely to kick things off as a double from number eight Pocock and one from tighthead prop Sekope Kepu saw them to victory.

Fiji were kept at arm's length for most of the game with their only try coming from fly-half Ben Volavola. Australia though were deserved winners on the day.

Australia had trained as two teams since arriving from the USA as they face Uruguay on Sunday at Villa Park. Fiji had their own problems after only playing England last Friday but were able to limit the changes to four as Peceli Yato, Netani Talei, Tevita Cavubati and Tuapati Talemaitoga came into the starting line-up.

That quickly became four tweaks from the XV that went down the hosts as they lost Waisea to injury inside four minutes. Aseli Tikoirotuma was his replacement amid a decent start from the Wallabies, with Israel Folau in particular a threat.

Australia were on the board soon after as Bernard Foley kicked over a penalty from in front, with an off the ball tackle on Giteau the offence. Giteau would have a fine first-half as he regularly took the right option, proving his return from the Test wilderness could be a masterstroke.

Credit to Fiji who settled and worked their way downfield before decent possession gave the crowd reason to cheer. The noise grew when they won a scrum penalty against the head – much to the delight of tighthead Manasa Saulo – before further pressure resulted in Nemani Nadolo levelling.

Fiji weren't the only ones keeping the Millennium Stadium crowd happy as back-to-back decisions to ignore the posts bore fruit when Pocock was the man at the tail of a driving line-out, thus opening Australia's try account at this World Cup. Foley cooly kicked the difficult conversion.

Australia were now motoring as their maul seemed to have Fiji's number, Pocock again at the tail as the Wallabies extended their lead to 15-3, this after Fiji loosehead prop Campese Ma'afu was carded for an offence at the breakdown. It would be a crucial ten minutes before the break.

Foley would keep the scoreboard ticking over with his second penalty before the turnaround but one felt that 18-3 was slightly harsh on Fiji, whose heads looked to be dropping after a tough opening 120 minutes in the tournament. If anyone could strike from nothing though, it's them.

The opening score of the half however would go the way of the Wallabies as tighthead prop Kepu showed good feet to cross, making it 25-3 with the result now seemingly beyond doubt. The try bonus-point wasn't in the bag just yet though as Australia looked to join England at the summit.

Fiji meanwhile were staring a zero from two pool record in the face and despite Nadolo making it 25-6 off the kicking tee, losing the influential Nikola Matawalu to injury on 50 minutes was another painful moment for John McKee. He'll hope he recovers for Wales next Thursday.

Many expected Australia to run away with things in the second half as Fiji have recently developed a tendency to dip after the break. Not so today as they upped their game to make it a two-score game. Volavola was the man crossing with an excellent step and strength seeing him over.

Foley was wise to restore a 15-point buffer on 69 minutes but when outside centre Tevita Kuridrani was shown yellow for not rolling away, Fiji again put the foot to the floor despite being out on their feet and there being just three minutes left.

It was all in vain but try telling Fiji to take their foot off the gas in their closest losing margin against Australia since 1984.

Man of the match: It's hard to look past David Pocock for his two-try performance. His work at the breakdown once again stood out as Fiji struggled to shift him. Alongside Michael Hooper the Wallabies have a formidable duo in the back-row.

Moment of the match: The loudest cheer of the night arrived when Ben Volavola crossed in the second half. It was a lovely finish from the Fiji fly-half as his quick feet got him to the try-line from almost 20 metres out before power did the rest.

Villain of the match: Nothing dirty to report.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Pocock 2, Kepu
Cons: Foley 2
Pens: Foley 3
Yellow card: Kuridrani (not rolling away – 73 mins)

For Fiji:
Try: Volavola
Con: Nadolo
Pens: Nadolo 2
Yellow card: Ma'afu (ruck offence – 31 mins)

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Fiji: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Campese Ma'afu.
Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Isei Colati, 19 Nemia Soqeta, 20 Malakai Ravulo, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England

by Adam Kyriacou at the Millennium Stadium