The Pacific Islanders at least they ensured they didn’t suffer the same fate as Ireland and France had – both scoreless against England and New Zealand respectively – in the weekend’s previous two games by knocking over an early penalty, courtesy of stand-off Alipate Noilea.
For the first half hour, it was a real competitive contest, as the Fijians replicated the toughness that won them many fans in Monday night’s win over Rochdale.
It was Australia who scored the game’s first try on 15 minutes, to take the lead that they never really looked like relinquishing. A repeat set got them field position, and Daly Cherry-Evans, given the nod at scrum-half ahead of Cooper Cronk, laid on a short ball for Josh Papalii to score on debut.
The blustery conditions were making it difficult for Fiji to gain ground through their kicks, and Australia took advantage of yet more field position on 22 minutes. Cameron Smith‘s low kick bounced back in to the hands of Greg Inglis, who held off a few tacklers to create space for Darius Boyd to cross in the left corner.
They spent some time camped in the Australia redzone but their momentum was quashed when referee Richard Silverwood missed a knock-on from Thurston, and the Kangaroos were off the hook.
The Kangaroos added two further tries, first through Cherry-Evans, who backed up a break down the middle by James Tamou to slide in under the sticks.
The pick of the tries went to Luke Lewis, who finished off strongly after superb hands from Inglis and Cherry-Evans in midfield.
Lewis was helped off the field later on following a clash with the pitchside boards, but Australia comfortably sealed their place in the quarter-finals.
(Photo courtesy of www.swpix.com)
Australia: Inglis, Hayne, J Morris, Jennings, Boyd, Thurston, Cherry-Evans, Scott, Smith, Tamou, Lewis, Papalii, Myles. Interchanges: Cordner, Farah, Fifita, Gallen.
Scorers: Tries – Papalii, Boyd, Jennings, J Morris, Cherry-Evans, Lewis. Goals – Thurston 5.
Fiji: K Naiqama, Koroibete, Waqa, D Millard, Uate, Noilea, Groom, A Sims, Storer, Civoniceva, T Sims, Bukuya, K Sims. Interchanges: Koroisau, Vunakece, Evans, Roqica.
Scorers: Goals – Noilea
Venue: Langtree Park, St Helens