The Wallabies kicked off 2017 with a win in Melbourne.
What are we talking about after their 37-14 victory over Fiji.
1. Good start, but execution needs improvement
A win was exactly what the Wallabies needed to kick off their 2017 campaign, but they shouldn’t be entirely satisfied with that. Fiji was scoreless until the 63rd minute and then ran in two tries in the final 15, which will be disappointing for the Wallabies’ defence, who finished with 34 missed tackles on Saturday afternoon. Australia cleaned up with two late scores of their own, but they’ll need to take a step up next week.
2. On the hunt for a permanent spot
Karmichael Hunt goes alright at this rugby caper. The cross-code star stepped up into the midfield and made his presence count for the Wallabies from the opening minute. Eight tackles in the first half, and 13 overall, showed his defensive worth in that space, and he was smart in attack as well. Just quietly, his fellow triple-code threat Israel Folau stepped up in his best performance for close to a year.
3. Form picks vindicated
Michael Cheika picked his matchday 23 on form and it paid off against Fiji. Australia’s debutants were by and large effective and youngsters Richard Hardwick and Joe Powell made impacts in their short time on the field, after impressive Super Rugby campaigns. In a team picked with half an eye to 2019, there were plenty of positive signs for the future.
4. Nakarawa world class
Leone Nakarawa was a breakout star in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and he again caused problems for the Wallabies in Melbourne. Seven offloads by half-time and 11 for the game showed his danger in attack. He made 65 metres, notched two clean breaks and beat three defenders on a tough afternoon for the Fijians.
5. Numbers dwindle in Melbourne
This time last year it was the Wallabies vs England that set a ground record for AAMI Park, with a 29,871 attendance at the second June Test. This time around they hit just 13,853 on a Saturday afternoon - reportedly the lowest Wallabies crowds in the professional era. Whether that's down to their opposition, playing on a Saturday afternoon of a long weekend, or a more sinister demonstration of the disdain for the national body that some in Victoria have after a season of Super Rugby uncertainty, it's not good. It was a tough weekend for the Wallabies, following a sellout Brazil vs Argentina football match on Friday night that featured Lionel Messi. Things certainly could've been worse, though, and the sight of fans on the field mingling with players post-match was heartening.