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Thread: SHARPE SHINES AGAINST FIJI

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    SHARPE SHINES AGAINST FIJI

    Emirates Western Force skipper Nathan Sharpe has taken his outstanding Super 14 form into the test arena with a man of the match performance in the Wallabies convincing 49-3 win over Fiji at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

    It was a wonderful test return for Sharpe who missed 2009 with a shoulder injury but had been able to bounce back and is in the best form of his career.

    Fellow Force teammates David Pocock, Richard Brown, Pek Cowan and test debutant Matt Hodgson all had an impact for Australia in a strong start for the Wallabies who ran in seven tries to nil against the Fijians.

    Queensland Reds flyer Digby Ioanecrossed for a double as did Tahs fullback Kurtley Bealewith Matt Giteausuccessful with all seven conversion attempts.

    But the Wallabies will be sweating on injuries to outside back Adam Ashley-Cooper and prop Ben Alexander, who both left the field during the match with leg injuries.

    The home side started the match with three debutants in the starting XV – centre Rob Horne, prop Salesi Ma’afu and hooker Huia Edmonds – all who were keen to make good first impressions.

    There were some early jitters from the Wallabies with Beale knocking on twice, the first giving Ma’afu a chance to make history at the scrum when he and his younger brother Campese Ma’afu, named after a local legend David Campese, became the first brothers to pack down against each other in Test history.

    The visitors had an excellent chance to capitalize on the mistakes when scrumhalf Emosi Vucago chipped over the Wallabies defence from the Men of Gold’s 22.

    The ball again eluded Beale and bounced up invitingly for Fiji’s vice captain, wing Sireli Bobo, but he failed to take the ball cleanly with the tryline open.

    New Wallabies No.10 Quade Cooper then tried to get Australia going forward putting wingers Ioane and local hero Ashley-Cooper into gaps.

    From Ashley-Cooper’s break scrumhalf Luke Burgess put in a box kick that Fiji failed to deal with. One of the debutants, Horne scooped up the ball neatly and at the next breakdown Fiji gave up a penalty for killing the ball.

    Quick thinking Pocock saw a quick tap and the ball come to Cooper who with great vision and skill lofted a 35 metre pass across field to Beale on the right wing who stepped inside the last line of defence to make up for his earlier blunders by crossing for the night’s first try.

    Giteau converted from close to the posts and the Wallabies were up 7-0 after ten minutes.

    Australia had a chance to go further ahead on 15 minutes but a mix up at the base of the ruck saw Burgess knock on just metres out with the tryline begging.

    Shortly afterwards, Horne, went to the blood bin bringing on Tahs team mate Drew Mitchell who went to the right wing with Ioane moving to outside centre.

    It was a disjointed nervy first quarter of the match with the Wallabies perhaps over-eager and trying too hard in their first Test of a new season.

    Big hits from the Flying Fijians, some clearly without use of arms, did nothing to settle the Wallabies nerves with Giteau feeling the full effect of two massive collisions.

    The Wallabies had another gilt edged opportunity on 25 minutes but captain Rocky Elsom, playing in his 50th Test, inexplicably spilt a simple Sharpe pass with once again the Fijian defence exposed.

    A rare lineout penalty for obstruction, given against Ma’afu, gave Fiji a chance to put themselves on the board and fullback Taniela Rawaqa slotted the ball home from 35 metres out, ten metres in from the right touchline.

    Wallabies up 7-3 approaching the half an hour mark.

    Fiji then launched a promising attack over multiple phases but a big tackle by Pocock and Elsom saw the movement breakdown.

    Soon after the Wallabies launched a neat counter attack from a Fijian kick. Superb ball skills from Ashley-Cooper, Pocock, Beale and Cooper saw Edmonds through but once again the ball went to ground with the tryline begging.

    The Wallabies looked to be in soon after with Giteau’s quick tap seeing Cooper trickle a grubber kick over the line.

    But Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa somehow got there before Beale and then raced to the 22 for a quick drop out.

    With the Australian defence caught out it was a desperate race between a retreating Cooper and Nagusa with the Wallaby No.10 there just in time to stop what would have been a runaway Fijian try.

    On the stroke of half time Cooper was again the architect putting Horne into an inviting gap 30 metres out from the Fijian line.

    The young Tahs centre was pulled down ten metres out but he popped the ball up to Ashley-Cooper who found barnstorming No.8 Richard Brown who barged his way over from metres out to give the Men of Gold more breathing space at half time.

    Giteau landed the conversion and the Wallabies went to the interval 14-3 up.

    As the Wallabies left the field Elsom complained about what appeared late contact with Giteau on several occasions.

    The Wallabies increased their lead against the run of play in the first few minutes of the second half. A strong rolling maul from Fiji broke down just metres out from the Wallabies line with the ball coming loose.

    Ioane kicked the ball ahead and Fiji was not able to scramble as the Wallabies charged forward. Ashley-Cooper toed it on and then with superior numbers the Men of Gold turned the ball over at the resultant breakdown on the Fijian 22 with Sharpe again finding Elsom who fed the ball to Cooper who darted over out wide. Again Giteau was on line with the conversion and Australia was out 21-3.

    Some Ioane magic warmed the crowd on 50 minutes. Pocock turned the ball over at a breakdown and popped the ball to the flying Queenslander 30 metres out.

    Ioane flew off his right foot then threw a big left foot step to split the Fijian defence and sprint away to score his fifth Test try under the posts. Giteau again converted and the Wallabies were coasting at 28-3.

    Wallabies coach Robbie Deans went to the bench with Cowan coming on for Ma’afu.

    Ashley-Cooper made another damaging run and after he was pulled down metres short Irish referee Peter Fitzgibbon lost his patience with the visitors and yellow carded scrumhalf Vucago for slowing the ball down.

    More worryingly for Australia Ashley-Cooper limped off with a problem with his right ankle bringing Mitchell on to the ground again.

    Another promising Wallabies attack broke down as Elsom tried to hurdle the Fijian defence and the penalty to the home team was a chance for the fourth new Test cap of the night for the home team, young hooker Saia Faingaa coming on for Edmonds.

    Faingaa made an immediate impact stopping a dangerous Fiji attack with a scything tackle resulting in a turnover.

    But then tragedy as prop, local hero and try scoring machine Ben Alexander was taken off on the motorized stretcher with what looked like a serious knee injury. Ma’afu returned to replace his injured team mate.

    Hodgson then became the Wallabies fifth new cap of the night, coming on for Force team mate Pocock just in time to see neat interchange from Giteau and Cooper putting Mitchell over for the Wallabies fifth try.

    Ioane was on fire, setting up his own try minutes later from a loose Fijian kick. Receiving the ball on the halfway he cut through the Fijian defence before passing inside to Beale who popped the ball back to Ioane to score under the posts. Giteau again accurate and the Wallabies up 42-3 with just on 13 minutes remaining.

    Fiji threw everything at the Wallabies in the final moments to try and get across the line but when resolute defence held them out once more replacement Graham Dewes was yellow carded for throwing a wayward punch at Cowan.

    The Wallabies completed the scoring with just over two minutes left with Cooper once again guiding the backline superbly, first putting Reds team mate Ioane close and then sending good mate Beale over for a double. Giteau kept up his perfect record with the conversion.

    Bundaberg Red Rugby Series

    Wallabies 49(Digby Ioane 2, Kurtley Beale 2, Richard Brown, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell tries; Matt Giteau 7 conversions)

    Fiji 3(Taniela Rawaqa penalty) at Canberra Stadium.

    (Half time: Wallabies 14-3)

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    Last edited by travelling_gerry; 06-06-10 at 15:58.

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    Makes you wonder how they'll go when they start playing the mid-year tests in the middle of the S15. If it had been this year, the Brumbies odds would have just lengthened dramatically!

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