AUSTRALIA bulldozed their way into next weekend’s World Cup final with a 54-6 victory yesterday against tournament entertainers Fiji.
Going into the game, Fiji had scored more points than any other side in the competition. Winger Suliasi Vunivalu was a big part of this haul, and before the game he sat second in the try-scoring charts with eight.
Australia, meanwhile, had conceded the fewest, having only let their opposition cross twice in four games. This solid defence had laid the platform for the likes of Valentine Holmes, who was ahead of Vunivalu for total tries going into the game, and added to his tally here.
The two wingers put in contrasting displays in Brisbane, with the Fiji man making a couple of early mistakes which set the tone for the game. Vunivalu’s side had taken the lead through an early penalty, but when he shot out of the defensive line he left a hole which Billy Slater waltzed through following Michael Morgan’s offload.
Moments later the Melbourne Storm winger was at fault again as he leapt to take a Morgan kick and missed the ball, allowing Holmes to collect and score an easy try.
The game was producing a story of two wingers, but Kangaroos stand-off Morgan was the man writing it. He controlled the game in midfield with the help of the ever-impressive Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
It wasn’t long before Holmes was troubling the scorers again. His side gave the ball plenty of air with Morgan again involved, sending the ball out to the winger via willing aide Josh Dugan — Holmes’s centre.
Australia had the game won, not just in terms of the points they’d put on the scoreboard, but also in the way they tamed a Fiji side who had run riot for much of the tournament.
When Cronk found Dane Gagai, whose acceleration and right-foot step saw him beat two defenders to score, Fiji were desperate for half-time. Given the way the second half went they may have preferred the game to be over.
Mal Meninga’s side piled on the points, with Holmes scoring four more tries to make it six for the game, breaking his own record of five from their quarter-final against Samoa last week.
Slater and Gagai joined in, both scoring their second, while Vunivalu finally crossed for a consolation try, but the tale of two wingers was summed up when the Fiji man spilled the ball over the line and Holmes sprinted down the wing to cross for his sixth moments later.
“We found a bit of continuity and it seems to be working for us,” said man of the match Smith.
“There were still a couple of patches where we lost our way but overall I’m really pleased with the way we’ve responded with our attack. We’re playing some nice direct football at the moment and we need to continue that next week now.
“We’ve just got to throw the ball to Holmes, he’s scoring left right and centre, 11 in two matches I think, so we’ll give it to him again next week.”
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