Both the Wallabies and the All Blacks won their tough opening matches in the Rugby World Cup.
The Wallabies overcame a Fiji team with a strong second-half display while the All Blacks beat the Springboks in a match-up that could be a preview of the final on November 2. Both sides will take much heart from tough opening encounters and have set themselves up to their respective pools.
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The Wallabies went into the match against Fiji, at the Sapporo Dome, knowing that Fiji would present tough opposition. A try soon followed an opening penalty for Fiji, in the fourth minute, from Pecali Yato, and the Fijians found themselves 8-0 to the good.
Needing a response, it was Wallabies’ captain Michael Hooper who found the try line. However, Ben Volavola scored and converted his try to extend the Fiji lead to 14-7. Importantly. The Wallabies got a try back to go into the break down by just two points.
Michael Cheika would have talked about how sloppy that the Wallabies had been in the first half. Needing to improve their passing and ball handling, the Wallabies found themselves further behind at the start of the second half when Waisea Nayacalevu went over to extend the lead of the Fijians.
With mounting pressure, and under an early test of their mettle, the Wallabies responded. Within the space of five minutes, Tolu Latu scored twice to close the gap. Fiji struggled to cope with the ball out wide, and this was the catalyst that the Wallabies needed.
Further tries by Samu Kerevi and Marika Korobeite put the game safe for the Wallabies as they ran out 39-21 winners.
The International Stadium in Yokohama, the venue for the final, hosted the All Blacks and Springboks for their Pool B clash.
The last time these two teams met, Handre Pollard kicked a critical conversion. It was Pollard again who opened the scoring for the Springboks with a penalty in the first minute.
However, the Springboks could not capitalise on their fast start.
Pollard missed a penalty to extend their lead, and the All Blacks soaked up the pressure. In the 22nd minute, the All Blacks were level when Richie Mo’unga was more clinical with his kick.
It was Mo’unga again with a deft kick in open play, just one minute later, who unlocked the Springbok defence and George Bridge scored the opening try of the game. Scott Barratt then went over to extend the lead. The All Blacks went into the sheds at half-time with a commanding 17-3 lead.
In the second half, the Springboks knew they had to respond and within seven minutes of the restart had a much-needed try. Pieter-Steph Du Toit’s deft play and excellent reading of the game saw him over, and Pollard converted.
When Pollard nailed a drop goal in the 58th minute, the Springboks were within four points of the All Blacks at 17-13. However, it was too much of a gap to close and two All Blacks penalties saw the cup favourites finally run out winners 22-13.
Next up for the Wallabies is the Welsh at the Tokyo Stadium next Sunday. The winner of the match will most likely top the pool. Wales play Georgia in their first match on Monday.
The All Blacks have a more extended lay off before their next game. They play Canada in Oita on October 2 and should pile on a large score.
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