Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has queried why all three test match officials were talking about David Pocock before a ball was kicked in their 39-21 Rugby World Cup victory over Fiji in Sapporo.
The men in gold eventually ran in six tries to two over their Pacific neighbours but they were made to work by the Fijians who took a two-point advantage into halftime and extended their lead with an early second-half try.
Deflecting from a question about Reece Hodge’s questionable table on Pecili Yato, Cheika instead tabled a potential conspiracy to focus on the Wallabies star backrow.
“I’m not quite sure what’s going on but the team of three were talking about David Pocock before the first minute of the game.
“I’m not sure why. I heard his name being mentioned between them on the commentary at least half a dozen times. He hadn’t even been involved in a ruck. I don’t why the focus is upon him. He’s only been in one game.
“He’s been out all year. I don’t what he’s done but there is a severe focus on him. His name is being called all the time.
“So I was a little bit surprised by that.”
He eventually addressed the Hodge tackle that saw Yato taken out of the game after he failed a HIA in the first half.
“To be honest I really didn’t see it. I didn’t even see it in the game.
“The one thing I know is that the Fijian captain went up and spoke to the referee and asked him to refer it, which he did, and it went to the TMO and he told him that the tackle was fine. And you’ve got to go with what they say.”
Fiji came out in predictably physical fashion, mixing in big hits in defense with some powerful carries and flair in attack to open up a 21-12 lead after 45 minutes.
But as the second half wore on, Michael Cheika’s men found their spark and turned around a mistake-ridden start to pile on the points and run away with an important bonus-point win.
The Australians scored two first half tries, the first by skipper Michael Hooper who barged through would-be tacklers for his, before Reece Hodge finished neatly in the corner of some slick hands for Australia’s second.
But those tries weren’t good enough to give the Wallabies the lead at the break, with Fijian standout Peceli Yato registering the first five-pointer inside 8 minutes of play and Ben Volavola landing three penalty goals to send Australia to the dressing rooms down 12-14.
It wasn’t until midway through the second stanza that the Wallabies pack took control of the match, with hooker Tolu Latu’s powerful effort off a maul in the 57th minute opening the floodgates.
Latu notched another one from a lineout drive five minutes later, after Fiji centre Levani Botia was yellow-carded, and the Wallabies continued to heap the set- piece pressure on a tiring Fijian pack.
The backs would also eventually get in on the action with Fijian-born duo Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete crossing late to finish the job and give the Wallabies the result they were looking for to kick off their Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign.
Wallabies 39 (Tolu Latu 2, Michael Hooper, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete tries; Matt To’omua 2, Christian Lealiifano cons; Reece Hodge pen) defeated Fiji 21 (Peceli Yato, Waisea Nayacalevu tries; Ben Volavola con; Ben Volavola 3 pens)
1.Scott Sio 2.Tolu Latu 3. Allan Alaalatoa 4.Izack Rodda 5.Rory Arnold 6.David Pocock 7.Michael Hooper (c) 8.Isi Naisarani 9. Nic White 10.Christian Lealiifano 11.Marika Koroibete 12.Samu Kerevi (vc) 13.James O’Connor 14.Reece Hodge 15.Kurtley Beale
Reserves: 16.Jordan Uelese 17.James Slipper 18.Sekope Kepu 19.Adam Coleman 20.Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 21.Will Genia 22.Matt To’omua 23.Dane Haylett-Petty
1.Campese Ma’afu 2.Sam Matavesi 3.Reni Ravai 4.Tevita Cavubati 5.Leone Nakarawa 6.Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c) 7.Peceli Yato 8.Viliame Mata 9.Frank Lomani 10.Ben Volavola 11.Semi Radradra 12.Levani Botia 13.Waisea Nayacalevu 14.Josua Tuisova 15.Kini Murimurivalu
Reserves: 16.Tuvere Vugakoto 17.Eroni Mawi 18.Manasa Saulo 19.Tevita Ratuva 20.Mosese Voka 21.Nikola Matawalu 22.Alivereti Veitokani 23.Vereniki Goneva
52 mins – Genia for White, 57 mins – Salakaia-Loto for Naisarani, 59 mins – To’omua for Lealiifano, 63 mins – Slipper for Sio, 63 mins – Uelese for Latu, 63 mins – Kepu for Alaalatoa, 68 mins – Coleman for Arnold, 70 mins – Haylett-Petty for Beale
– additional reporting rugby.com.au
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