Wallabies "can't wait" to get World Cup started after win over Samoa

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by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says his side "can't wait" to get  their Rugby World Cup campaign started after clinching a 34-15 win over Samoa in their final home Test of 2019 on Saturday night.

Australia went into the match as unbackable favourites, though the 2011 Wallabies who suffered an infamous defeat at Samoa’s hands, will tell you that doesn’t always mean much, and took what they needed to with a victory.

After opening up an early 10-0 lead, the Wallabies lead by as much as 19 points before Samoa mounted a second-half resurgence, narrowing the gap to just seven points with 18 minutes to go before two late tries gave them their final buffer.

While Cheika said there was room to work on some of his side's decision-making in the second half, the match left him with some food for thought when it comes to selections, a prospect that excited him ahead of the World Cup kick-off.

The Wallabies will travel to Japan on Sunday night, 13 days out from their first match against Fiji in Sapporo.

"You want to have as many players as possible competing for the spots, it's exactly where you want to be going into the tournament," he said.

"I think we have a really good atmosphere in the team, where players all compete with each other and then once one gets selected, the other one works with him to make sure the right outcome comes in the game.

"There's a really good camaraderie within the team at the moment.

"Realistically what we're feeling like now is we can’t wait for it to start, which is probably something we may not have said six or seven months ago.

"We really feel like we can't wait for it, just excited about getting it on."

In a massive boost for Australia, flanker David Pocock made it through 59 minutes unscathed, in his first match since March after battling a troublesome calf injury.

David Pocock made it through the match unscathed. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyLock Adam Coleman went off with an injured thumb midway through the second half but Cheika cooled any concerns on Coleman's fitness post-match.

"I think he’s good, there’s no sign of any serious damage there - I think he just got a bit of a fright there, he got hit right on it," he said.

"It'll teach him to pass the ball a bit quicker next time, because he took his time. 

Others had the chance to push themselves up the selection pecking order, though there were few who really made a major statement in front of the 16,091 crowd at Bankwest.

Winger Marika Koroibete showed his array of weapons, scoring a spectacular try and looking dangerous in attack nearly every time he touched the ball.

Bernard Foley was far from emphatic at 10 and had a patchy return off the boot (2/6 conversions), likely keeping Christian Lealiifano in the box seat to have first crack at that jersey in a fortnight’s time against Fiji.

Things began, and generally continued, slowly in Parramatta with a series of scrum resets, which ultimately went the way of the Wallabies, a sign of things to come in the first half.

Australia were mounting a patient attacking charge in the seventh minute before a long-range Matt To’omua pass went into touch.

The Wallabies forwards took an opportunity to show the backs how to finish a try, with Pocock beginning an attacking phase and Rob Simmons sparking a quick chain of hands for Pocock to put Coleman over in the eighth minute.

Adam Coleman scored the Wallabies' first in the eighth minute. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyKoroibete created his own score in the 16th minute, dodging out of the grasp of three Samoan defenders to notch Australia’s second.

A wraparound attack from To’omua opened up space for Dane Haylett-Petty and Koroibete but Koroibete opted for an inside pass that missed its target deep in attack.

Samoa looked to have scored their first in the 28th minute but play came back for taking out David Pocock beyond the ball before another infringement gave Tusi Pisi the chance to score Samoa’s first points, off the boot.

The Wallabies extended their lead off the next kick-off, with Samoa failing to gather the restart, an error upon which Sekope Kepu pounced and a Matt To’omua grubber put Adam Ashley-Cooper into space to score the third.

Australia began to take control of the match after that and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto had Australia’s fourth in the 34th minute, finishing off some edge-to-edge ball movement.

The Wallabies picked up where they left off in the second half, with dominance at set piece and a wealth of possession.

Koroibete looked like getting his second try of the night in the 47th minute but a decision to pass outside put To’omua under some pressure and the Samoan defence dragged him into touch.

Samoa perform their pre-game Siva Tau. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyReplacement Samoa prop Paul Alo-Emile began to turn Samoa’s scrum fortunes around in the second half, with his dominance on the tighthead side giving replacement scrumhalf Dwayne Polataivao the chance to score for Samoa.

Cheika said he was "bemused" early on that the Wallabies we

"I was really disappointed we didn’t get more pay from the scrum penalty-wise," he said.

"I wasn't quite sure what was going on on our loosehead side, it was pretty obvious but we got no pay there at all. I was bemused about that situation.

"Then when Alo-emile came on, who we know, he's a very good scrummager, we needed our hooker to do his job on Alo-Emile and we didn’t do that for the first couple and then we adjusted and we got our shape back around the scrum, we were back into the contest."

Polataivao made the margin just seven points with 18 minutes to go, scoring his second off the back of some Wallabies defensive lapses.

The Wallabies eased the pressure with a 71st minute try to Haylett-Petty that came after some somewhat frantic attempts to make the line.

Fullback Tom Banks, who was one of a handful of players featuring from outside the World Cup squad, tried to a full stop on the game with a trademark break, but he was taken down in the 22 in a high tackle.

Sekope Kepu played his final Test on home soil on Saturday night against Samoa. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyTo'omua finished off Banks' work to give the Wallabies a final 19-point win and a chance to farewell Wallabies veterans Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Will Genia and Pocock on a high in their final game on Australian soil.

Samoa were dealt an injury blow late in the first half, with Queensland-based halfback Scott Malolua taken off in a medevac with a dislocated shoulder.

Samoa coach Steve Jackson said Malolua's injury was a concerning one, with the 26-year-old being monitored despite the joint being put back in place.

Jackson was positive post-match, feeling confident that his team could push tier one sides as they prepare for a World Cup pool that features Russia, Japan, Ireland and Scotland.

"We got everything we wanted even though we didn’t win," he said.

"These  warm-up games, I think they’ve done their job in what we needed and expected, it's been a perfect build-up.

"We go into camp on Tuesday, 13 days out...playing against a Tier One nation, we know we’re just about there."

Australia departs for Japan on Sunday night, ahead of their September 21 World Cup opener against Fiji in Sapporo.


Wallabies 34

Tries: Coleman, Koroibete, Ashley-Cooper, Salakaia-Loto, Haylett-Petty, To'omua

Cons: Foley 2

Samoa 15

Tries: Polataivao 2

Cons: Pisi

Pens: Pisi