Ben Donaldson stars as Wallabies win first Test since November
Wallabies fans have waited a long time to see their team win a Test match. Passionate fans from the Land Down Under may have even struggled to remember what that winning feeling is like.
Well Wallabies fans, wonder no more. Australia have ended a forgettable run of form that dates back to the days of former coach Dave Rennie.
Having lost all five Test matches under coach Eddie Jones this year, Australia’s winless stretches back to last November’s thrilling comeback win over Wales in Cardiff. That’s an eternity in rugby.
So Wallabies fans, feel free to let out a collective sigh of relief as you read this. Your team did Australia proud on a scorching Saturday evening in Paris.
Two days before this Test, coach Jones named the most inexperienced Wallabies side to play at a Rugby World Cup since their 2003 pool clash against Namibia in Adelaide, Australia.
With just 343 Test caps between them, this inexperienced Australian outfit had a lot to prove in their opening match at the sports showpiece event.
Playmaker Donaldson got the Test underway at 6.02 pm and the Wallabies got off to an idyllic start as they regained possession almost immediately.
Wing Mark Nawaqanitawase kicked a 50/22 about 70 seconds into the match and that led to the opening score shortly after.
Jordan Petaia dotted the ball down for a try right on the two-minute mark. The centre, who debuted in Wallaby gold four years ago in Japan, showed impressive strength to fight his way to the line.
The Wallabies, almost suddenly, were up 5-nil with Donaldson failing to convert the try.
As a team, Georgia took a breath within their own in-goal before marching up the field for the kick-off. Chaos ensued with halfback Vasil Lobzhandize charging down a Carter Gordon exit attempt.
Gordon, 22, also gave away a penalty which gave the underdogs a chance to open their account at the Rugby World Cup from the kicking tee – and they did just that.
But their two-point deficit was short-lived.
Wallaby Petaia capped off a magical first 10 minutes with the rugby wizard showing some incredible skills to send teammate Mark Nawaqanitawase over for a try. Donaldson added the extras to give Australia a 12-3 lead.
Donaldson added another two penalty attempts to the Wallabies’ score before the match was brought to a temporary stop for a much-needed drinks break after about 20 minutes.
The Wallabies were in pole position, and they looked very comfortable at the top of this two-team grid. Coach Jones had compared this team to an F1 car during the week.
When time was called back on, Georgia had the best-attacking opportunity out of either team during the second quarter.
Georgia waited until the 26th minute for their first real attacking opportunity, with wing Akaki Tabutsadze making an impressive burst down the right edge.
But Tabutsadze decided to kick the ball ahead, and he didn’t win the race to the ball. Crisis averted for Jones’ Wallabies who hit back with a penalty in the 31st minute.
Georgia also went down to 14 men as referee Luke Pearce showed wing Mirian Modebadze a yellow for a professional foul on the stroke of half-time. Australia went into the break leading by 18.
There was a feeling within the stadium that Georgia had to score next – and they did. Luka Ivanishvili crossed for a decisive score in the 46th minute to give the underdogs a glimmer of hope.
But the second half was Ben Donaldson’s. Many questioned this selection, but coach Jones had a plan and it paid off.
While Georgia showed glimpses of promise, Donaldson scored and converted two of his own tries as Australia raced out to a commanding 35-8 lead.
Donaldson was, rather rightfully, named the Player of the Match. The fullback took some pressure off rising star Carter Gordon, and was simply reliable out the back as well.
But Georgia had the last laugh. Prop Beka Gigashvili sent the crowd into a deafening frenzy as he bashed his way over for a score.
It was the Wallabies’ day, though. Their long-lasting losing streak was finally over.
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