Australia v Fiji: Five key points
26 November, 2017, 12:00 am
Valentine Holmes puts on a show, Hayne’s frustration hurts Fiji and the other talking points from Australia’s semi-final win.
Kangaroos one step
closer to redemption
Nine years ago Australia failed to win the World Cup on home soil, losing to the New Zealand Kiwis in a boilover at Suncorp Stadium. On Saturday December 2 they will have the chance to redeem themselves at the same venue after disposing of an outclassed Fijian team. The win was the Kangaroos’ 11th World Cup victory in a row, with their last defeat coming on that balmy night at Lang Park in 2008. Australia will now take on the winner of England v Tonga in the final and they will be heavy favourites after conceding just three tries over the course of five games.
hurts Fiji early
It took only a minute for passion to get the better of both sides, with a Jarryd Hayne shoulder charge on Billy Slater sparking an all-in melee during just the second set of the match. Hayne, who has represented the Kangaroos on 11 occasions, did not miss his former Australian teammate, flattening the star fullback with a bone-crunching hit that the Kangaroos did not appreciate. This was one of two penalties Hayne gave away in the opening 10 minutes, with the veteran five-eighth almost trying too hard to make an impact. The Kangaroos let him know about it, getting in his face and taking him down after every kick to try and create more mistakes out of the volatile Fijian half. To make things worse for Hayne, he had to watch on helplessly as Slater opened the try-scoring for Australia in the 14th minute.
Slater creates history
Billy Slater added another accolade to his already glowing resume on Friday night, becoming the leading try-scorer in World Cup history. Slater scored twice in Australia’s comprehensive win, taking his personal try tally to 16. What makes his achievement so remarkable is that he has achieved it in just 12 World Cup appearances for Australia over three tournaments. The 34-year-old now has five tries in four games during this year’s competition, defying Father Time to continually run rings around his opposition. Whether Slater is the best fullback to ever play the game remains up for debate, but he is certainly part of that conversation.
Vunivalu exposed in defence
Suliasi Vunivalu went into Friday’s semi-final as the competition’s leading try-scorer and a star of the tournament so it was a shame to see him bow out with such a poor performance. On his day, Vunivalu is one of the most dangerous attacking wingers in the world, but unfortunately he still has a lot to learn defensively. The 21-year-old had a shocker defending his line, with the Kangaroos’ first three tries of the night coming down his wing. The first try was arguably the worst for the young Fijian and he will not want to see a replay anytime soon. With Australia on the attack, Vunivalu rushed in, slipping over in the middle of the play to leave three Kangaroos unmarked.
To put it simply, the inexperienced Melbourne Storm winger was exposed by a well-drilled opposition on Friday night and he must learn from it if he is to compete with the best at an international level.
Holmes cannot be stopped
Kangaroos winger Valentine Holmes cannot stop scoring tries. Many thought his record-breaking five-try performance against Samoa in the quarter-finals could not be bettered but he has somehow improved on it against a helpless Fijian side. Coming up against Vunivalu looked to be a challenge on paper for Holmes, but the Cronulla Sharks star completely outplayed his much bigger opponent from start to finish. Holmes finished with six tries for the match — the most any player has scored in a single World Cup game. This achievement has taken his tournament-leading tally to 12, and in the process he has surpassed Wendell Sailor’s record for the most tries in a World Cup tournament, with his 12 two clear of Sailor’s mark of 10 at the 2000 World Cup.