So here we are, the second semi-final wihich decides the side that will face New Zealand in the Final in Brisbane next week. The sides:
Australia: Slater; Monaghan, Inglis, Folau, Tate; Lockyer (capt), Thurston; Civoniceva, Smith, Price, Stewart, Laffranchi, Gallen.
Interchange: Hunt, Fitzgibbon, Tupou, Kite.
Fiji: Hayne; Tadulala, Naiqama (captain), Millard, Uate; Noilea, Groom; Sadrau, Sukanaveita, Vonomateiratu, Sims, Koroi, Bukuya.
Interchange (from): Storer, Bradley-Qalilawa, Macilai, Tora, Naqau, Wesele (two to be omitted).
Obviously, if I had to pick a side I’d be picking Australia. However, I have enough faith that Fiji should at least make this game entertaining.
AUSTRALIA 16 – 0 FIJI
Fiji look really in the zone. I don’t think they’re going to go out with a whimper at least.
0 mins: TRY Paul Gallen CONVERSION Thurston
Spoilsports. Fiji lose the ball in the first set, and three tackles later Thurston puts Billy Slater through a hole. Hayne just manages to drag him down, but not before he can offload to Gallen.
AUS 6 – 0 FIJI
3 mins: Thurston makesa a break down the left flank. He kicks ahead but Tadulala kicks it dead. It’s still a drop-out by Fiji.
5 mins: TRY Brent Tate CONVERSION
Australia again make the pressure pay when they work the ball out wide to fit Brent Tate into a hole, Billy Slater throwing a fantastic final miss pass.
AUS 10 – 0 FIJI
8 mins: TRY Billy Slater CONVERSION Thurston
Thurston makes another scything break down the middle, but he passes to the wrong runner as Slater gets pulled down. It’s no matter though, as a few tackles later Thurston puts up a nice chip and Slater beats Millard and Noilia to it to score. Slater gets the easy conversion.
AUS 16 – 0 FIJI
11 mins: Fiji have the ball in attack, for the first time in roughly ten minutes.
13 mins: Fiji get an opportunity to attack, as Smith’s pass to Civoniceva is forward. They fail to threaten during the set, but Groom’s kick is interesting. Alas, Lockyer is there to cover it after he deflects it off his feet.
14 mins: Fiji again get the opportunity to attack as Inglis knocks on in a tackle. It looked like it was a strip, but that’s not how the ref sees it.
15 mins: TRY Tate CONVERSION Thurston
Fiji fail to take advantage of the position, and after kicking the ball back to the Kangaroos, a few tackles later Glenn Stewart passes the ball out of contact to Lockyer, who passes wide to Folau. Folau breaks before giving Tate a pass that gives him a clear run to the line. Thurston adds the easy conversion.
AUS 22 – 0 FIJI
17 mins: Fiji pull off the short kick-off. Unfortunately they don’t do much with it
20 mins: Rather bizarre moment there, as Brent Tate collapses despite no-one being near him. It looks like a hip problem. A shame for him, with the World Cup Final ahead next week.
24 mins: Naiquama makes a break and it looks like they might score, but he kicks infield. It looks like Thurston knocks on when recovering the ball, but the ref doesn’t see it.
29 mins: Both teams seem to be giving up a lot of errors at the minute.
32 mins: Fiji swoop on a dropped Lockyer ball, and Storer puts in a nice grubber which results in a drop-out. Fiji seem to getting into the rhythm of the game.
36 mins: Noilia puts in a big hit on Folau. The Fijians are getting a little physical.
38 mins: TRY Slater
Fiji give away a penalty, and Australia capitalise. Smith looks to pass inside to Laffranchi, but instead goes outside to Slater. Slater dummies to Folau and then powers over for himself. Thuston misses the kick, and that takes us to half-time.
HALF TIME: Australia 26 – 0 Fiji
Well, the better side are winning, but I think the score’s a little harsh on Fiji. They were completely dominated in the opening 15 minutes, but since then the two sides have been competing on something approaching parity. Fiji are suffering the same fate as the other sides in this tournament, in that they don’t even appear to look like breaking the Kangaroos line, whereas Australia look threatening every time they approach the Fiji line.
40 mins: The game restarts, and Australia knock on.
41 mins: Aikila Uate looks really hurt as he comes out of a tackle with Thurston and Inglis, landing really awkwardly. Cameron Smith to his credit draws the ref’s attention to this immediately. He’s being taken off.
45 mins: Karmichael Hunt tries to tackle Jarryd Hayne following a kick. Hayne bumps him off three times before a group of Green and Golds come to help out Hunt.
48 mins: TRY Slater CONVERSION Thurston
Australia threaten the line on the right. They then commit to a sweeping passing move with dummy runners galore, eventually leading to Lockyer putting Slater’s hat-trick try on a plate for him.
AUS 32 – 0 FIJI
51 mins: Fiji look like they might get over as Tora picks up a dropped ball from Thurston, except that the Kangaroos get back and cover him, and the ref decides the ball was dropped because of a Fijian knock-on anyway.
54 mins: Sukaneveita gets held up over the line, when really he should be diving over. Fiji knock on in the next tackle.
56 mins: Hayne puts a monster shoulder charge in on Lockyer. He knocked him clean off his feet.
59 mins: Now Noilia does the same thing to Thurston. Australia will have some bruises in the morning
61 mins: TRY Johnathan Thurston
Australia get close to the line, and after a bit of passing Thurston finds his way over. He fails to add the conversion but it doesn’t mean much right now.
AUS 36 – 0 FIJI
65 mins: TRY Thurston CONVERSION Thurston
Ashton Sims has the ball dislodged in a big hit, and a few tackles later the Kangaroos open up some space for Karmichael Hunt. He passes back inside to Thurston who runs under the posts.
AUS 42 – 0 FIJI
69 mins: Tadulala comes very close for Fiji, but is held up over the line.
71 mins: TRY Thurston CONVERSION Thurston
Did you know that Thurston hadn’t scored a try for Australia before this game? He’s got three now, as he picks up a loose ball from a silly Hayne offload and runs untouched to the line.
AUS 48 – 0 FIJI
76 mins: TRY Greg Inglis
Lockyer sets Inglis, hitherto not needed by Australia, free for a footrace to the line. Hayne does well to get to him, but the video ref sees that Inglis has just managed to put the ball down and score before he was knocked out.
AUS 52 – 0 FIJI
78 mins: Sukanaveita again gets held up close, as Fiji get the ball back from an Australian knock on.
79 mins: A kick towards the goal-line just hits the corner flag before Folau can touch it down. That takes us to the end.
FINAL SCORE: Australia 52 – 0 Fiji
As if it was ever in doubt. Credit to Fiji for putting up a fight and at least getting close on a few occasions, but it was quite obvious from the off which side was the better one. New Zealand really have their work cut out for them next week…