The Wallabies have completed their World Cup preparations on home soil with an unconvincing 34-15 win over Samoa in Sydney on Saturday. Australia had a 19-point half-time lead at Bankwest Stadium slashed to seven on the hour after two tries in eight minutes to replacement back Dwayne Polataivao.
But winger Dane Haylett-Petty ensured Samoa wouldn’t repeat their famous 2011 upset win over the Wallabies before that year’s World Cup by plunging over the line for their fifth try with 10 minutes remaining. Inside centre Matt Toomua then crossed after the siren to inflate the margin before 16,091 spectators.
The Wallabies scored six tries to two but after some good passages of play in the first half, they struggled to sustain pressure and produce try-scoring opportunities until deep in the second spell. Australia understandably tested their depth before heading to Japan with only three members of the starting line-up intact following the Wallabies 3 6-0 loss to New Zealand last month.
The return of flanker David Pocock for his first game since March was a highlight as he logged an encouraging hour of game time. Pocock was heavily involved in Australia’s first try in the seventh minute. He pounced on a loose Samoan lineout throw deep in the visitors’ half and ran the ball up to just short of the line before the ball was recycled and he was on hand to send lock Adam Coleman over.
Pocock and No 8 Jack Dempsey who has also missed much of the season through injury, were both industrious while winger Marika Koroibete and Toomua were the backline standouts. The most memorable five-pointer came from man-of-the-match Koroibete, who displayed a mixture of speed, strength and footwork to cut inside and out and beat three defenders on a 40-metre run to the line.
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The Fijian-born former NRL player also set up a try to flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto , while veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper notched Australia’s other first-half try off a well-weighted stab kick from Toomua. Australia led 22-3 after limiting Samoa to a Tusi Pisi penalty, but the Pacific Islanders rallied after the break through Polataivao’s brace.
Samoa also made their presence felt physically with five-eighth Bernard Foley copping one big hit during his disappointing night with the boot. He landed just two of six conversions, but a potentially greater concern for coach Michael Chieka was Coleman retreating with a thumb injury during the second half.
While the match was a valuable warm-up it also served a farewell for a quartet of stalwarts playing their final Test in Australia – Pocock, halfback Will Genia, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and prop Sekope Kepu.
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