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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

Hodge hit goes unpunished as Australia surge to win over Fiji

The Wallabies scored 27 second-half points without reply to avoid a shock after a fantastic start from Fiji.

The Wallabies celebrate Koroibete's try.
The Wallabies celebrate Koroibete's try.
Image: David Davies

Australia 39

Fiji 21

TERRIFIC TRIES, BUT also a large dose of tackle controversy landed in the Rugby World Cup as Australia were forced to dig deep before burning Fiji off with a six-try win.

Beaten finalists in 2015, the Wallabies trailed by nine points early in the second half, but emerged from the Sapporo Dome with a bonus point victory that sets them out in front in Pool D.

Peceli Yato, who epitomised Fiji’s ambitious and abrasive style, finished a terrific eighth-minute try that gave the Pacific Island the upper hand after an early Ben Volavola penalty.

A poor Nic White kick invited Fiji to run back at a narrow gold defence and Olympic gold medal-winner Josua Tuisova burst through three tackles on the right wing before returning a pass to Yato for the openside to run for the corner. 

With Fiji dominating collisions in open field, the Wallabies forced their way back in the game through tight exchanges and captain Michael Hooper showed his excellent footwork in contact to propel himself onto the try-line in the 18th minute.

Volavola added two further penalties to set Australia’s deficit at 7-14 on 30 minutes, but the game’s turning point arguably came just before the second of those strikes.

japan-rugby-wcup-australia-fiji Hodge flies off Yato after going at the flanker high. Source: Aaron Favila

The influential Yato embarked on an explosive carry on the blindside in Australia’s 22 and was brought to a halt by an illegal high tackle by wing Reece Hodge.

The hit, which appeared worthy of a red card, went unchecked by officials, Yato failed a subsequent HIA and Hodge was celebrating a try at the other end five minutes before half-time.

Having worked their way back to a deficit of 12-14 at the interval, the Wallabies got off to the worst possible start in the second half.

James O’Connor’s loose midfield pass bounced awkwardly next to Christian Lealiifano and centre Waisea Nayacalevu raced onto the ball before it could take a second bounce and stormed the full 50 metres to the try-line.

Michael Cheika’s side didn’t panic. Hodge struck a penalty to bring them back within a score and hooker Tolu Latu reaped the benefits of a strong gold maul, touching down near-identical tries on 56 and 61 minutes.

Then the floodgates opened. And all the hope Fiji had with a 12-21 lead fizzled away as Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete crossed the whitewash to complete a run of 27 second-half points without reply.

Gavan Casey is joined by Andy Dunne and, from Japan, Murray Kinsella ahead of Ireland’s Rugby World Cup opener against Scotland.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Sean Farrell

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