After last weeks stunning and surprise 4-2 victory over New Zealand, hosts Australia knew the danger that World Cup underdogs Fiji brought into today’s fixture at the Suncorp Stadium with a place at the final up for grabs.
Both sides named the same seventeen but word from the Australia camp was that Mal Meninga was forced to ‘read the riot act’ at training on Wednesday after a lacklustre run out from the green and gold. Fiji would need the help of their heavenly eighteenth man as they put their faith into their game as they looked to cause a second consecutive shock.
The bookies fancied Australia, but there was just that element of the unknown.
The scene was set with a mass brawl within the first ninety seconds after a late Fiji tackle.
When Valentine Holmes spilled the ball on his own forty, Fiji probed the Aussie defence before being gifted a penalty which Apisai Koroisau slotted between the extras for a 2-0 lead after seven minutes.
Matt Gillett bombed a certain try for the Kangaroos on eight when he put in a poor pass to touch wash he looked to have easily been able to get over the line himself.
On fourteen the Aussies made their pressure tell when Billy Slater was one of three men on a massive overlap left to take a pass ten metres from the line and walk over. The try had been coming for several minutes and when Cameron Smith added the conversion it was 6-2.
Suliasi Vunivalu failed to take a high Michael Morgan cross field kick and Valentine Holmes plucked the ball from the air and walked in for the Australians second on eighteen. Smith was again accurate with the boot for 12-2.
On twenty-five Holmes got his second when he was at the end of a five man right to left passing move to go over in the corner. Smith pushed the conversion wide of the right upright but Australia were starting to dominate.
Dane Gagai took a long ball from Cooper Cronk to sidestep last his tackler and go over under the sticks for the Aussies fourth try of the night on thirty two minutes. Smith added the conversion for 22-2 and The green and gold already had one foot in the final.
With Fiji in a promising position, Kevin Naiqama threw a reckless intercept pass on the Aussie ten metre line and Holmes intercepted to go the length of the field, outpacing the Fiji defenders to complete his hat-trick on forty-one. Smith added the extras.
On forty-seven Billy Slater scored a great solo try as he ran the angle on the half-way line before straightening up and going over under the sticks. Again Smith was accurate with the boot for 34-2 and the Kiwis must have been watching and wondering what happened to them last week.
Holmes grabbed his fourth try, off a Joshua Dugan short pass, to score from just two metres out and when Smith added the extra the Aussies brought up the forty.
Fiji finally opened their try account when Vunivalu somehow picked up a difficult low pass and bounced his way to the line to score in the right hand corner. Koroisau failed to add the conversion and the Bati trailed by 40-6.
Holmes got his second consecutive five try haul on sixty-five when he took a sweet Dugan pass to walk over on the corner for his easiest of the night. He now passed Wendell Sailors World Cup record of ten in a tournament and when Smith added the extras it was 46-6.
Gagai stepped off both feet to round the Fiji defenders and get his second of the night, Australia’s ninth to bring up the fifty. Smith failed to add the conversion.
Vunivalu dropped the ball over the line on seventy-five and when Australia swept up the loose ball they eventually passed it out to Holmes who went the last fifty metres for his sixth try of the evening. Smith was again able to convert but his side had a 54-6 victory.
This was clinical from Australia but you still felt that they’d left something in the tank for next weeks final. Valentine Holmes scored an outstanding six tries in the game with braces from Slater and Gagai and Smith converted seven of the ten tries. There were good patches from Fiji, especially when muscling up, but Australia just wore them down by completing their sets and not making mistakes.
Fiji have had great World Cup but this was just one game too far, Australia will now eagerly await the outcome of tomorrow’s second semi-final between England and Tonga.