The Wallabies have avoided a significant upset in their opening match of the World Cup after securing a 39-21 comeback victory over Fiji in Sapporo.
The Flying Fijians got off to a rapid start in the first half, leading by seven points at one stage until a late unconverted Reece Hodge try left the half-time score at 14-12 in favour of John McKee’s side.
A stunning try for Peceli Yato was created through wing Josua Tuisova’s damaging running game on the right flank which built on Ben Volvavola’s early penalty goal.
Australia’s stagnant start eventually dissipated, as Michael Hooper took a cleverly taken try from close range shortly before the break.
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Reece Hodge followed that up to capitalise on some nice build-up play to cash in in the right-hand corner, but Volavola’s three penalty goals was enough to edge the Fijians in front by two points heading into the sheds.
An opportunistic try to Waisea Nayacalevu from a Christian Lealiifano error extended Fiji’s lead inside the first five minutes of the second half, with the midfielder scooping up a miscued pass from the middle of the park to streak away under the sticks.
It proved to be a stroke of genius, as hooker Tolu Latu nabbed a brace of tries from rolling mauls against a tiring Fijian defence close to the opposition tryline.
His second came after a yellow card to Fiji’s second-five Levani Botia, which didn’t help the minnows chances.
Consequently, the Wallabies dominated proceedings in the final quarter of an hour, with Fijian-born duo Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi both taking full advantage of a depleted backline to ease concerns among the Australian faithful.
The result catapults Australia to the top of Pool D, leaving them in good stead for their next pool match against Wales in Tokyo on September 29.
As for Fiji, their next clash against Uruguay will be a much easier task, but this result has made it a must-win clash nonetheless.
Fiji 21 (Tries to Peceli Yato, Waisea Nayacalevu; conversion, three penalties to Ben Volavola; yellow card to Levani Botia)
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