A stellar two-try effort from David Pocock has powered a rusty Wallabies to a 28-13 win over Fiji in their World Cup opener.
In what was a far from a polished performance, the three-try win fell short of delivering a valuable bonus point in the ‘Pool of Death’ clash at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
However, coach Michael Cheika would have been thrilled to see the continued success of his strategy to start both of his brilliant ball-seeking openside flankers, with Pocock flourishing in his role as the team’s number eight.
Just two minutes into the game, the Brumbies star had already pinched possession in the ruck – and soon after he crashed his way into the Fijian defensive line.
More was to come, and in promising signs for his development at the back of the scrum, Pocock sealed his first-half double by twice finishing off powerful rolling mauls – scoring in the 27th and 31st minutes.
It continued a similar tale to his Super Rugby season, where Pocock grabbed eight tries in almost identical fashion – taking the ball from a lineout win before finishing off a rolling maul.
The experiment of playing him alongside vice-captain Michael Hooper must also be considered a resounding success in just its second Test outing.
Between them, the pair made 38 tackles and forced three turnovers in the ruck.
Less convincing was Australia’s work at the set piece – with both the scrum and lineout leaving plenty of room for improvement.
The Wallabies’ scrum copped an early black eye after buckling in the face of its first test.
With captain Stephen Moore unable to get an early hook on the ball, both scrums held firm for a solid 20 seconds – however once Moore went to rake the ball back, the Wallabies were quickly overpowered and conceded the penalty.
However, they recovered and never looked truly troubled after Pocock’s two-try blitz – which was split by a yellow card to Fiji prop Campese Ma’afu leading into an 18-3 halftime lead.
Immediately after the break, monster prop Sekope Kepu stepped through some feeble defence to crash over next to the posts, with Bernard Foley’s conversion pushing the score out to 25-3.
Fiji’s former NSW Waratahs pair then hit back – with number 10 Ben Volavola scoring a super solo try, while winger Nemani Nadolo kicked a penalty and conversion to pull within 12.
Both players left the New South Wales franchise after their careers stagnated.
There was concern for bench prop James Slipper, who was forced off with concussion following a heavy head clash just minutes after taking the field.
Cheika would’ve been heartened, however, by the sight of the Reds skipper walking off unaided – less so by a yellow card to centre Tevita Kuridrani.