Player ratings: Not enough gas
OPINION: Fiji got out the blocks quickly to race into an early lead, but a yellow card on the hour mark saw Australia escape with a 39-21 win in Sapporo on Saturday.
Trailing 12-21 with half-an-hour remaining on Saturday, the Australian pack took command in a period when Fiji were reduced to 14 men through a yellow card – to ensure they dodged what would have been one of the worst results in their tournament history.
Despite ultimately scoring six tries to two, there is plenty of work for Michael Cheika’s men to do before playing Wales next week after an error-riddled first half performance in which they had been bullied by the Fijians.
Alex McLeod rates the Fijian players!
1. Campese Ma’afu – 4
Not much to write about and didn’t offer much around the park before being substituted midway through the second half. Only missed one of his 12 tackle attempts, and held his weight in a poor Fijian scrum, but just never really got out of first gear.
2. Sam Matavesi – 6
Was part of a crumbly tight five at scrum time, but snatched a vital turnover early in the second half to deny the Wallabies a try-scoring opportunity on the right edge. Threw well at lineout time.
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3. Peni Ravai – 5
Enthusiastic, but not overly efficient. Conceded a handling error deep in his own territory inside the first quarter of the match and played a key part in a collectively poor scrummaging effort by the Fijian tight five, all of which eventually led to Michael Hooper’s try.
4. Tevita Cavubati – 6
Not the strongest display by any stretch of the imagination, but it was an honest effort. Won two lineout throws, managed to steal one from the Wallabies and shifted his lofty frame around the park to make 13 tackles, but provided little on attack, and was prone to giving away a couple of penalties.
5. Leone Nakarawa – 7
Put Nic White under pressure defensively early on to force the penalty, which led to Fiji’s opening three points. The offloading flair that helped make him an Olympic champion three years ago was also evident at times. 14 tackles illustrated his high work rate, but slipped off four tackles, which wouldn’t have helped Fiji’s cause.
6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu – 5
A disappointing showing from the Fijian captain. Went missing throughout the contest, carrying for only two metres from two runs and completed the match with a tackle percentage of just 67 percent while giving away two penalties. Needs to show more leadership in Fiji’s next match against Uruguay.
7. Peceli Yato – 8
Sublime work at the breakdown and outstanding with ball in hand. Bagged himself a try, made a linebreak and stole a penalty at the breakdown all inside the first 15 minutes. A crying shame that an HIA ruled him out of action near the half hour mark.
8. Viliame Mata – 6
A quiet performance before being substituted at half-time. Never really got into the match, but there is still plenty of time for Edinburgh’s Olympic champion to prove his worth on the world stage.
9. Frank Lomani – 6
Worked hard all match long, and did better than his opposite Nic White, but the class of Australian sub Will Genia was evident upon his introduction in the second half. His box kicks will be a work-on for the new Melbourne Rebels signing.
10. Ben Volavola – 8
Fiji couldn’t have played so well in the first 50 minutes of this match without the exceptional composure of playmaker Ben Volavola. Has matured well since his World Cup debut against England at Twickenham four years ago. His time with the Crusaders, North Harbour and Racing 92 appears to have served him very well, as his tactical kicking and game management shone. Outplayed Christian Lealiifano, but the Australian’s departure near the 60th minute spelled the end of Volavola’s dominance.
11. Semi Radradra – 7
Not as barnstorming as his wing partner Tuisova, but still asked plenty of questions of the Australian defence. Latched onto the end of a Volavola cross kick to emphasise his aerial ability, and ran over a couple of players in green and gold for show his physical prowess. Ran for 45 metres and beat seven defenders, and will run riot against Uruguay in Fiji’s next match.
12. Levani Botia – 6
Blockbusting on defence, but a bit shaky on the other side of the ball. Provided plenty of impetus and turned the game on its head at times with his brutal rush defence, but over-eagerness on attack cost his side on occasion. Aggressiveness on defence eventually counted against him, as he was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle right in his own tryline.
13. Waisea Nayacalevu – 7
Played the role of link man between Tuisova and Yato very well in the lead up to the latter’s try early in the first half. Backed that up with a shuddering shot on Kurtley Beale to win his side a penalty, which eventually led to his side’s second try. Was then rewarded with an opportunistic try from a Lealiifano error to cap off a good performance in the No. 13 jersey, although defence will be a work-on after missing a third of his tackles.
14. Josua Tuisova – 8
Lived up to expectations with some strong, powerful carries down the right flank which put the Wallabies under pressure constantly. Effectively set-up his side’s first try inside the first 10 minutes. Sent Reece Hodge and James O’Connor flying with his powerful ball-running, and his effectiveness with ball in hand is reflected by his 53 running metres, four defenders beaten and one clean break. Could go on to be one of the stars of the tournament.
15. Kini Murimurivalu – 6
A quiet night for the Fiji fullback. Didn’t get an opportunity to showcase his talents with ball in hand, ending the match with just two carries and five metres from them. Will want to get more involved in his side’s forthcoming matches.
16. Tuvere Vugakoto – 6
Carried on from where Matavesi left off in terms of lineout throwing, but wasn’t that impressive elsewhere. One of many from the bench who were on the field when Fiji capitulated in the second half,
17. Eroni Mawi – 5
The Fijian scrum wasn’t any better or worse when Mawi was subbed onto the field alongside Saulo, but his work rate probably wasn’t high enough to yield the desired effect of his introduction into the match.
18. Manasa Saulo – 5
Similar effort to that of Mawi, but had a poorer showing on defence, missing two of his five tackle attempts.
19. Tevita Ratuva – 5
Came on in place of Mata at half-time, but it was a lacklustre showing from the Harlequins second rower. Missed three of his seven tackle attempts and didn’t offer anything on attack. Perhaps playing in his natural position of lock may have suited him better.
20. Mosese Voka – 6
Was Yato’s replacement in the first half, and although he didn’t live up to the standard that his replacement set inside the first 25 minutes, Voka ploughed through his work tirelessly. Maintained a 100 percent tackle rate from 12 attempts.
21. Nikola Matawalu – N/A
Didn’t get enough of a chance to involve himself in the match. Needed more game time.
22. Alivereti Veitokani – N/A
Little to no impact when introduced late in the piece.
23. Vereniki Goneva – N/A