PNC - Australia A thump Fiji
Australia A turned on a seven try feast in front of a vocal crowd of just under 5,000 people on a beautiful afternoon in Ballymore.
The crowd turned up to watch what was promising to be a thirlling encounter against two of the competition's most electric backlines and the match was only 3 minutes old when Digby Ioane crossed for the first 5 pointer of the match down the right flank. Despite the perfect conditions the first half didn't live up to expectations as both forward packs sought to gain ascendancy in a fairly scrappy affair. In fairness though the Australia A backrow of McMeniman, Brown and Hoiles was superb in securing the wealth of possession that the Australians enjoyed in the first half in particular - and made life extremely difficult for Fijian captain and Halfback Rauluni with what possession he could scamper.
The teams then traded penalties to give Australia A a 10-3 lead midway through the first half before Australia A winger Lachie Turner crossed for the first of his two tries to give the Australians a 17-3 lead.
It was about to get much worse for the Fijians when second-row Rawaqa was yellow-carded for a professional foul with 11 minutes to go in the first half. The Wallaby-laden Australian A side punished the now depleted Fijians with two quick tries - the first to Ben Lucas and the second to fullback Drew Mitchell, to give Australia A a commanding 31-3 halftime lead.
The second half was more the rugby the enthusiastic Queensland crowd expected to see as both teams lit up their backlines and sent the play from one end of the field to the other at a frenetic pace. However, when Australia A captain Morgan Turinui peirced the Fijian backline from a perfectly weighted pass, the match was all but over for the World Cup Quarter Finalists. Australia A 38-3.
The Fijians squandered many opportunities in the second half as they tried desperately to capitalise on the numerous breaks that were created but the scrambling Australia A defence was superb. A try to conveniently located prop Graham Dewes down the right flank after some trademark running rugby by the Fijians brought the score back to 38-8.
Turner and Hoiles were to cross for another try each whilst an unusually subdued Fijian centre Ratuvou finished the game with a try on fulltime to make the final score 50-13 to Australia A.
The win sets up a 'final' of sorts next Sunday at the Sydney Football Stadium when the red-hot Australians take on the New Zealand Maori in the last match of the 2008 Pacific Nations Cup. Today's was an outstanding win by Australia A. The Australian backrow earned a wealth of possession whilst also making life hell for Fijian halfback Raulini whilst Turinui and Tahu excelled in subduing the extremely dangerous Fijian Centre pairing of Ratuvou and Naigelevuki.
The 2008 Pacific Nations Cup draws to a close next weekend with Japan travelling to Apia to take on Samoa. Fiji travel to Nuku'alofa to play Tonga who are still searching for their first win of the Tournament, and on Sunday Australia A take on the New Zealand Maori - the other undefeated team of the tournament - the winner of that match to be crowned the 2008 Pacific Nations Cup Champions.