Australia 39-21 Fiji: Rugby World Cup match report, highlights and scorers

Samu Kerevi touches down for Australia
Samu Kerevi touches down for Australia

Australia found salvation in their driving line-out as they survived a scare to dispatch Fiji 39-21 in their World Cup opener at the Sapporo Dome.


Australia 39-21 Fiji

Australia tryscorers: Hooper, Hodge, Latu (2), Kerevi, Koroibete
Australia conversions: Lealiifano, Toomua (2)
Australia penalties: Hodge

Fiji tryscorers: Yato, Nayacalevu
Fiji conversions: Volavola
Fiji penalties: Volavola (3)


Match highlights

Australia v Fiji (39-21) | Rugby World Cup 2019 Highlights

Match report

Australia found salvation in their driving line-out as they survived a scare to dispatch Fiji 39-21 in their World Cup opener at the Sapporo Dome.

The two-time champions trailed by nine points until they seized the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute before galloping out of sight, the Islanders unable to absorb unrelenting set-piece pressure.

Two identical tries, that saw hooker Silatolu Latu driven over on both occasions, swung the game and Australia then ran amok against deflated opponents - who knew the mighty World Cup upset they had threatened was gone.

Wales are competing with the Wallabies for top spot in Pool D but there was little on display here to overly concern Warren Gatland's Grand Slam champions, especially as the final scoreline was distorted by Fiji's collapse.

Likewise Australia's possible quarter-final opponents England, whose wily head coach Eddie Jones will have seen his countrymen dominated and rattled until finding the route out of trouble.

Both teams invited early pressure onto themselves but Fiji also shone and, inside 10 minutes, they had built an 8-0 lead.

Australian tacklers were scattered by Josua Tuisova during a rampaging run down the right wing and openside Peceli Yato was on hand to finish the attack.

Fiji were looking the better coached team until Michael Hooper side-stepped over from close range after a series of raids down the left.

It was only brief respite as Fiji renewed their onslaught, harvesting six more points from Ben Volavola's boot, but Australia were far more ruthless in possession and when they next visited the 22 a try was worked for wing Reece Hodge.

The Wallabies needed to settle quickly into the second half but instead they gifted the Islanders their second try as a botched midfield move presented Waisea Nayacalevu with the loose ball.

Shrugging off a tackle, the outside centre ran almost half the pitch to cross under the posts with a swallow dive before being mobbed by the replacements bench, who were warming up nearby.

There was an air of inevitability to Australia's next try as repeated line-out drives ended with Latu crossing and, with Levani Botia sin-binned for killing the ball, they produced a carbon copy with the same player going over once again.

The floodgates were now open as Fiji collapsed, with Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete completing a one-sided scoreline that was unkind to the Islanders.

Fiji players perform the Haka
Fiji players perform the Haka

Match reaction

World Rugby's crackdown on dangerous tackles has ignited controversy just two games into the World Cup after Australia wing Reece Hodge escaped a red card against Fiji.

Hodge prevented Peceli Yato from scoring a certain try in the 26th minute of the Wallabies' 39-21 victory by halting the openside with a shoulder-led, no-arms challenge to the head.

Fiji captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu revealed after the Pool D showdown at the Sapporo Dome that, having requested referee Ben O'Keeffe to refer the incident to English TMO Rowan Kitt, the tackle was deemed legitimate.

Adding to the Islanders' sense of grievance is that Yato, who scored the opening try and was superb until his departure, then failed a head injury assessment after being hurt in a tackle that could also have been punished by a penalty try.

Only on Monday, World Cup referees chief Alain Rolland warned the competing nations that officials would punish high tackles with greater severity, even if that means games were being blighted by red cards.

It comes amid World Rugby's drive to reduce instances of concussion by clamping down on dangerous hits.

Fiji head coach John McKee adopted a stoical view on an incident that is sure to result in a citing for Hodge.

"I haven't seen footage of the incident yet, but maybe some people will look at it. We haven't spoken to the TMO yet," McKee said.

"The referee has a tough job out there. There's a lot going on. We maybe didn't get the rub of the green, but we have no complaints about the referee.

"We take a lot out of that game and we are still in this tournament. We will be watching how Wales and Australia go. We're still in this tournament."

Waqaniburotu revealed that the tackle was missed by New Zealand referee O'Keeffe.

"He said he didn't see anything so it will be referred to the TMO. We will just have to see what happens," Waqaniburotu said.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika also said he did not see the tackle, but noted that "the collision was a massive one and a try-saver".

Cheika added: "Fiji came out with a lot of aggression and they caught us on the hop early on. But we got out of it with a bonus-point win, so it's a good start for us."

Cheika also questioned why the officials were having an ongoing discussion during the match about his blindside flanker David Pocock.

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