Player Ratings: Australia
OPINION: Australia’s World Cup campaign hangs in the balance after losing to Fiji for the first time since 1954 on Sunday evening. The Wallabies were beaten 22-15 in Saint-Etienne.
The Wallabies scored the first try of the Test through wing Mark Nawaqanitawase, but the vibrant crowd spurred the Flying Fijians on to a historic comeback victory.
Eddie Jones’ Wallabies have won just one of seven Tests this year and will need to win their final two pool games if they have any chance of progressing to the knockout rounds.
15 Ben Donaldson – 4.5/10
Ben Donaldson was a bit of an unknown going into the Rugby World Cup. With just three Tests to his name, including just a single appearance under coach Jones, fans around the world didn’t know too much about the Western Force recruit. But that all changed last week.
Donaldson walked away with Player of the Match honours following a sensational display against Georgia at Stade de Frane. The fullback finished with two tries and was otherwise sensational both off the kicking tee and around the park.
But unfortunately for the Wallabies, Donaldson didn’t come close to replicating those heroics against the Flying Fijians. The playmaker didn’t run the ball once during a quiet first term and finished with a pair of tackles as well. Donaldson’s night didn’t really improve after the break, either.
14 Mark Nawaqanitawase – 5
Let’s start with the good. Following a brilliant Nic White 50/22, Nawaqanitawase showcased his brilliant rugby IQ with a clever one-two with Samu Kerevi off a quick lineout. Nawaqanitawase ultimately reaped the rewards and scored the Wallabies’ opening try of the Test.
But the rest of the Test was far from glamorous – and sometimes that’s the life of a wing. The ball came Nawaqanitawase’s way a couple of times during the second term, but it was nothing memorable or overly impactful.
13 Jordan Petaia – 5.5
Centre Jordan Petaia is an essential member of this Wallabies backline. The Queenslander has finally found a home at Test level in that No. 13 jersey, and even though the result didn’t go their way, Petaia showed why on Sunday. Petaia ran the ball for more than 20 metres and made seven tackles – both stats were among the best out of the Wallabies’ backs.
12 Samu Kerevi – 6.5
Samu Kervei was one of the Wallabies’ best on an otherwise difficult night. Kerevi linked up with wing Mark Nawaqanitawase for a quick-thinking try assist during the first half – but that’s as good as it got for the Wallabies.
Kerevi made a brilliant covering tackle on former NRL wing Semi Radradra, and was otherwise a work-horse on both sides of the ball. The inside centre carried the ball eight times for more than 30 metres and made six tackles too. Not bad for a player who only recently returned from injury.
11 Marika Koroibete – 5
Wing Marika Koroibete showed glimpses of promise but was far from his best against a passionate Flying Fijians outfit. Koroibete ran for a team-high 55 metres from eight carries and also made some big shots in defence. But those attacking opportunities didn’t come close to the try line, and that’s the main criterion for a winger.
10 Carter Gordon – 2
Carter Gordon’s tough induction to Test rugby continued in this Test with the young Wallaby having a truly forgettable night in Saint-Etienne. The flyhalf was hit into next week after being caught on the wrong end of a big tackle early on, and things only got worse from there.
With the 30-minute mark rapidly approaching, Gordon’s stats weren’t pleasant reading. Gordon, 22, had conceded three turnovers and missed both of his two tackle attempts. The flyhalf knocked the ball on again before the half was over, too.
Early in the second half, a mix-up with teammate Nic White saw Fiji reel in a kick for a decisive try. As the Wallabies made their way back to the try line, the young first five lent down to fix up his socks – it just wasn’t his night. Gordon was replaced early in the second half.
9 Nic White – 4
Back in the starting side in the absence of Tate McDermott, Nic White struggled to assert himself. The Wallabies’ forwards were on the back foot for long periods, and that makes the life of a halfback pretty difficult.
White kicked the ball out on the full during the first term, but made amends shortly after with a brilliant 50/22. That kick led to Mark Nawaqanitawase’s try with the wing catching the Flying Fijians off-guard. The scrum-half was replaced just before the 60-minute mark with Issak Fines-Leleiwasa looking significantly better during his cameo.
1 Angus Bell – 6
Young Angus Bell has come a long way in the space of about two months. At the beginning of Eddie Jones’ new dawn with the Wallabies, Bell was an understudy behind some more fancied props – but not anymore. Bell is verging on the edge of world-class status.
But Bell still has a little bit of a way to go. The loosehead wasn’t at his best against the Flying Fijians, but did manage to impress in sharp bursts around the field. Bell started the Test with an eye-catching carry inside the opening few minutes, but was otherwise kept quiet by a physical Fijian pack during the opening 40.
Fiji controlled the scrum battle, and that has to be reflected in Bell’s rating. The Wallabies didn’t concede any penalties at the scrum during the first term, but their opponents certainly had them on the back foot. Things improved for Bell after the break, although only slightly. The prop put in an incredible shift that ran almost the entire duration of the Test – he was replaced with just two minutes to play.
2 Dave Porecki – 6
The Wallabies were forced in a reshuffle ahead of this Test with captain Will Skelton a last-minute withdrawal due to a niggly calf injury. Australia didn’t change into battle behind their towering skipper, and instead had to turn to a new man for guidance.
Hooker Dave Porecki became the Wallabies’ sixth captain in seven Tests at Saint-Etienne. When the warmups finished, a stern-looking Porecki led the Wallabies down the tunnel ahead of this decisive Rugby World Cup pool clash.
There’s no denying that Fiji were the better side during the opening 40, but Porecki was still able to lead by example. Not only was the captain solid at the set piece, but Porecki also finished the half with the equal second-most tackles out of any Australian player. No carries, though. Porecki was replaced just before the 60-minute mark.
3 James Slipper – 4
Former Wallabies captain James Slipper appeared to go down with an injury during the first half, and never really seemed to recover from that. Whether it’s a niggly injury or quite possibly just an off night from the veteran remains to be made clear. Slipper carried the ball a couple of times and made some solid tackles, but failed to make an impact for the majority of the first half.
As the teams made their way towards the tunnel at the break, Slipper was seen moving at a snail’s pace towards the sideline while looking down at the ground. That seemed to sum up the Wallabies’ first half with some of the other forwards lingering behind.
4 Nick Frost – 6.5
Nick Frost was everywhere during the first half in particular. The lock got stuck in on both sides of the ball, but brought a lot to the tam that can’t be defined by available stats. Frost was hitting breakdown after breakdown; just doing whatever he could to support his teammates into contact. The work rate that h showed was admirable in the face of defeat.
Frost also won two lineouts against the throw in the space of about one minute just before the half-time break. With no captain Skelton in the team, Frost really stepped up at times – even if the result didn’t fall their way.
5 Richie Arnold – 4
Other than a charge down early in the second half, there’s really not a lot to say about Richi Arnold’s performance. The Toulouse lock made a handful of tackles and carried the ball for not many metres. Arnold gave away a penalty with about 17 minutes to play and was replaced by Matt Philip shortly after.
6 Tom Hooper – 5
Tom Hooper has been impressive over the last month or so in Wallaby gold, but it didn’t quite click for the young blindside flanker against Fiji. Other than a few decent carries, Hooper went missing for long stretches of this Test.
7 Fraser McReight – 6
Fraser McReight wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good either – the flanker was somewhere in between. The Queenslander had made the equal-most tackles out of any Wallaby by the time he was replaced, but was otherwise kept quiet around the park.
8 Rob Valetini – 7
No. 8 Rob Valetini was impossible to miss whenever he got his hands on the ball. The backrower charged at the wall of Fijian jerseys with purpose, intent and fury – and Valetini ended up running for more than 30 metres. But if you’ve read this far, you’ll see that there’s a common theme: players went missing, and Valetini was no exception.
But let’s be positive. Valetini was the first Australian player to reach double digits for tackles made, and also let the way in attack for the entire team. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again: the Wallabies would be a very different team without Rob Valetini.
Jordan Uelese – 5
Blake Schoupp – N/A – Was only on for two minutes.
Zane Nonggorr – 4
Matt Philip – 4
Rob Leota – N/A
Issak Fines-Leleiwasa – 5.5 – Brought plenty of energy and pace to the Test.
Lalakai Foketi – N/A
Suliasi Vunivalu – 5.5 – On for Carter Gordon about 10 minutes into the second half. Scored a try late in the piece which gave the Wallabies a glimmer of hope.
By Finn Morton