Australia had to overcome both a spirited Fiji team and a vociferous Rodney Parade crowd who made no secret of the fact they were backing the
underdogs, before returning to the top of Pool C with a 53-17 win and setting up a potentially titanic clash with England on Saturday to determine who progresses to the IRB Junior World Championship semi-finals.
The Fijians play sparkled at times as they played with typical gusto and spirit of adventure, but Australia were simply too skilful and too well drilled and ruthlessly put away their South Sea island opponents.
Australia opened the scoring with a try for Junior Sovala Futi after only four minutes, but the Fijians delighted the crowd as they responded with a penalty from Sakiusa Malai Bulivakarua and then answered Sovala Futi’s second try with a superbly fashioned score of their own for centre Wiliame Umu.
However, the Australians replied in ruthless fashion as captain David Pocock, wing Blair Connor, full back Peter Betham and number 8 Seilala Lam all crossed before half time with the men in gold who went in at the break leading 36-10.
The second half proved to be more of a stop-start affair as several injury breaks took their toll on the momentum of the game, although Australia added further tries from Connor and scrum half Will Genia within 10 minutes of the restart before Fiji centre John Stewart brought the crowd to its feet with a superb long range score.
The Fijians looked as though they might wilt in the closing stages as their opponents ground out a penalty try but far from it as the gallant islanders spent the final few minutes vainly pummelling the Australian defence in search of another score.
Australian centre Ben Tapuai caught the eye with a polished all round display and was named Man of the Match, while both wings Connor and Sovala Futi staked their claims for selection on Saturday against England with a brace of tries apiece. Quotes: Brian Melrose (Australia Head Coach)
: “I thought we had some nice touches in the first half. I was happy with that and there was some improvement. The second half meandered a bit but full credit to the Fijians who threw the ball around and provided tough opposition. They were always dangerous with the ball.” Ben Tapuai (
Australia Centre and Man of the Match) :
“They gave it to us in the forwards and made it hard to get a platform to go out wide but, fortunately, we play a structured game and were able to come away with the win. A win’s a win but there’s always room for improvement.” Rayne Simpson (Fiji Head Coach)
: “The game was always going to be physical against a team like Australia laden with Super 14 stars. But we expected that and I thought the boys did a great job. Our team morale is really good and the main focus is now on Canada.” Jese Cirikisuva (Fiji Captain)
: “It was quite tough and we didn’t play well in the first half. We have to work hard on our defence particularly in the backline where we made it too easy for Australia. But our spirit is good and we’re looking forward to Canada.” Monday 10 June, 2008
Fiji 17 Australia 53
IRB Junior World Championship Pool C
Rodney Parade, Newport
: 10-36 FIJI:
15 Sakiusa Malai, 14 Pate Kocoturaga, 13 Wiliame Umu, 12 John Stewart, 11 William Saukuru, 10 Natubavivi Kasami, 9 Peni Rokodiva, 8 Waqabaca Kotobalavu, 7 Uraia Vecenadavui, 6 Jese Cirikisuva (capt), 5 Tevita Tuiloa, 4 Unaloto Ofa, 3 Saulo Romumu, 2 Saula Qalomai, 1 Penijamini Makutu Tries
: Umu, Stewart; Conversions:
Malai (2): Penalty goal:
15 Peter Betham, 14 Blair Connor, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Rowan Kellam, 11 Junior Sovala Futi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Seilala Lam, 7 David Popcock (capt), 6 Benjamin Coridas, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Ben Daley, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Albert Anae
Not used: Dane Haylett-Petty Tries:
Futi (2), Connor (2), Popcock, Betham, Lam, Genia, Penalty try; Conversions:
Cooper (3), Kellam; Scoring Sequence (Fiji’s points scored first
4min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Futi; conversion missed – 0-5
7min – PEN GOAL FIJI, Malai – 3-5
14min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Futi; conversion Cooper – 3-12
18min – TRY FIJI, Umu; conversion Malai – 10-12
23min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Popcock; conversion missed – 10-17
28min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Connor; conversion Cooper – 10-24
33min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Betham; conversion missed – 10-29
42min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Lam; conversion Cooper – 10-36
48min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Connor; conversion missed – 10-41
50min – TRY AUSTRALIA, Genia; conversion missed – 10-46
64min – TRY FIJI, Stewart; conversion Malai – 17-46
72min – PENALTY TRY AUSTRALIA; conversion – 17-53
Full-time Source: IRB.COM