Double double sees Wallabies home over Fiji

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies have kicked off 2017 with a comfortable 37-14 win over Fiji in Melbourne.

It was a game that laid some solid foundations for the home side, with doubles for Israel Folau and Henry Speight, but was a platform on which mistakes were more easily forgiven than they will be come August.

That, though, was to be expected in many ways in the first Test of a new year, with a horde of changes among the team.

Folau had a try in the fourth minute, in his best Test for close to a year, pouncing on a mistimed catch attempt from Fiji, to ground the ball and put the Wallabies ahead in front of a crowd of 13,583 at AAMI Park.

Ball in hand rugby was the order of the afternoon and though some cut out passes missed their targets, a round-the-back pass was cleaned up by Speight for Australia's second.

Israel Folau had a double. Photo: WalmsleyThe winger clinching a try in the 11th minute, scooping up a long-range Dane Haylett-Petty ball that went to ground, giving the Wallabies a 15-point start.

World Rugby’s high tackle crackdown had a workout in the 20th minute when Folau found himself in the bin, after collecting Fiji openside Naulia Dawai high, jumping into the tackle.

That gave Fiji an opportunity to pepper the Wallabies defence, an area coach Michael Cheika and a penalty ultimately let the Wallabies out of trouble.

A chance for the Wallabies’ third, after a Bernard Foley intercept, was snuffed out after one too many attempts at evasive passing, though staying deep in their attack ultimately yielded points.

In his first Test back from injury, lock Adam Coleman was in the thick of the aggravations stakes, clearly still embracing the enforcer role he took on in 2016.

Fiji finally had a chance to add points through Ben Volavola just shy of half-time, but the Rebels 10 couldn’t convert, giving the Wallabies their first opening half shutout since 2014 against France.

Karmichael Hunt stepped up into the inside centre spot, proving himself with his defence as much as his running power, making eight first-half tackles and 13 overall.

Karmichael Hunt didn't shy away from contact  against Fiji. Photo: WalmsleyWill Genia's return was obvious, the halfback's crisp delivery reminding everyone why he is keenly sought.

Two disallowed tries in the 10 minutes after half-time left the Wallabies with the majority of possession but little to show for it, before a second Folau try edged their lead to 25 points.

Fiji winger Vereniki Goneva had their first try in the 63rd minute, slipping through the Wallabies defence and evading a would-be tackler.

Stephen Moore had the Wallabies’ fourth in the 68th minute, off a strong scrum, sealing the game, before Fijian wing Timoci Nagusa replied.

Speight had the final say on the clash, with an 83rd-minute try.

Richard Hardwick and Joe Powell both realised their debut aspirations, with Hardwick earning an early turnover after replacing Scott Higginbotham.

Fiji tighthead prop Peni Ravai Kovekalou and lock Leone Nakawara caused headaches for the Wallabies at times, epitomising the Islanders’ athleticism across the park, but those efforts weren’t enough to be rewarded with points.

The Wallabies take on Scotland in Sydney next weekend, while Fiji heads to Suva to host Italy.


Australia 37

Tries: Folau 2, Speight 2, Moore

Cons: Foley

Pens: Foley 2

Yellow cards: Israel Folau (20')

Fiji 14

Tries: Goneva, Nagusa

Cons: Volavola 2