Marika Koroibete’s sizzling solo try stole the show but the Wallabies otherwise battled to see off Georgia 27-8 in their final Rugby World Cup pool match in drenched Shizuoka.
Victory on Friday may have come at a cost too for the Wallabies, who lost fullback Kurtley Beale to a likely concussion, while Isi Naisarani was shown a yellow card that could yet warrant a further sanction.
The match was spoiled as spectacle by rain and swirling wind, conditions which are suspected to be a precursor to Typhoon Hagibis, which is forecast to strike much of Japan on Saturday.
A slippery ball didn’t stop the Wallabies attempting an enterprising brand, barely kicking the ball in general play.
They had difficulty breaking down the stubborn Georgia defence in the first Test between the two nations but eventually out-scored them four tries to one.
It was in the 60th minute that the match burst to life when winger Koroibete unleashed one of the tries of the tournament.
His team leading by the halftime score of 10-3, the former NRL star collected a loose ball inside his own half and beat four defenders cold in a thrilling surge to the line.
Georgia responded against the run of play with a sharp try to winger Alexander Todua before Jack Dempsey and Will Genia crossed inside the final 10 minutes to seal the outcome.
Australia’s enjoyed about 80 per cent of the game’s possession and territory but spilled chances and stubborn opponents prevented them from building a lead they could relax with until late.
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There will be concern about Naisrani’s open-armed hit that caught Mamuka Gorgodze on the jaw in the 35th minute.
French referee Pascal Gauzere told the back-rower his failure to wrap his arm was flawed, continuing Australia’s struggles with high shots at the tournament. They’ve tallied three yellow cards in their last two games.
Coach Michael Cheika was satisfied with a powerful showing from his pack but was disappointed a high error count meant they couldn’t capitalise.
He made no apologies for their ball-in-hand approach.
“It’s pretty obvious, we’re the lowest kickers in international footy,” he said.
“We like to play with the ball in our hand… but we carried a bit too much ball on our chest. In the conditions, that’s going to happen, that you’re going to get ball spitting out.
“There were a few things that we definitely need to work on out the back but we’ll get to that during the week.”
Australia ran into a Georgian brick wall throughout the first quarter and suffered a casualty when Beale was forced off when copping an accidental knee to the head from David Kacharava in the 13th minute.
The dazed fullback didn’t return and must be in doubt for next week’s quarter-final, almost certainly against England, although Cheika said he seemed happy after the game and would have eight days to passed head assessment protocols.
The scoring began when halfback Nic White darted over following waves of Wallabies attacks.
His halves partner Matt To’omua emerged as one of Australia’s better performers, mounting pressure on Cheika to start him at five-eighth in the knockout games.