Wallabies shoot down US Eagles
Australia ran rampant against the United States to secure a 67-5 victory in a very one-sided affair, scoring 11 tries in their Pool C World Cup clash in Wellington on Friday.
The USA Eagles had more possession than Australia and they had more of the territory in the match.
But - and the but was worth 62 points.
The but: Australia won the loose ball and capitalised on USA errors and then Australia were always liable to score tries wherever they were on the field, and that was worth 67 points.
The running of Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper, and the cunning of replacement Berrick Barnes, were worth many more points than the Eagles' territory and possession.
It was a happy night and a sad night. The happiness was in the tries scored and the colourful good cheer of the 34,000 fans. The sadness was in the injuries. Pat McCabe, who came on in the second half may well have dislocated a shoulder and then, right at the end, Anthony Fainga'a was knocked out tackling Chris Wyles and it took a long time to take him off the field.
Lastly, there was the pity of it. With this process of turnaround the USA play Italy in four days where a victory could earn them automatic right to the 2015 World Cup, and so they changed 14 players from the team that opened well against Ireland and then beat the USA. 14! That suggests that the team which played Australia was their second team.
The teams were welcomed onto the field and stood to another magnificent singing of the anthems, the Eagles turning to face the Flag as they sang The Star Spangled Banner with great intensity.
Cooper kicked off. During the match he often raised hearty cheers whenever he got things wrong. If he kicked for posts, the crowd booed; if he missed, they cheered. Clearly he is a New Zealand bête noir - which is a pity.
The USA were going through tidy phases, not making much advance down the field but enthusiastically keeping possession. But then Tim Usasz, captain and scrumhalf, hoofed a meaningless ball downfield. Beale played to Cooper and the flyhalf shut up all those who did not like him with a clever, characteristic run. Wycliff Palu carried it on and then they went left and Rob Horne was over right in the corner.
It was 5-0 after eight minutes. Beale missed the conversion. Cooper replaced him and was no better. Third kicker lucky, Barnes goaled them. In this match, by the way, neither side aimed a penalty kick at goal.
The Wallabies came back on the attack with clever inter-passing till Rocky Elsom stepped inside Blaine Scully to score in a good position. This time Cooper missed. 10-0 after 10 minutes.
Suddenly Usasz broke off a tackle and raced down the tight to set up an eager American assault on the Australian line. The Wallabies conceded a five-metre scrum. The Wallabies pushed the Eagles back but suddenly South African-born JJ Gagiano, the USA No.8, picked up and ran on the narrow blindside past Elsom and beyond Palu to score in the corner. 10-5 after 23 minutes.
The USA came back on close attack but Kevin Swiryn lost the ball as Will Genia knocked him down. Elsom turned the loss to gain and ran downfield. He gave to Ashley-Cooper who gave inside to Beale who raced over many acres to score at the posts. 17-5 after 30 minutes.
From a line-out Palu, in midfield, have a short pass to Horne who raced ahead till Scully tackled him. The Wallabies went left and Faingaa ducked under a tackle to score. 22-5, which was the half-time score.
Berrick Barnes replaced Beale and in fact the Wallabies made many substitutions early in the half.
From a five-metre scrum they scored a simple try. They went right and Genia gave to Drew Mitchell, back after long injury, and the wing scored, It was as simple as that. 29-5 in 45 minutes.
One of the substitutes, Pat McCabe, on for less than a minute scored the next try. 34-5 in 49 minutes. Ashley-Cooper got the next try as the Wallabies went wide from a scrum. This time Barnes kicked and converted from touch. 41-5 after 60 minutes.
The Eagles kept on playing and Nese Malifa set them on the attack but - ineluctably, they lost the ball and Ashley-Cooper scored. 48-5. From the kick-off Barnes kicked a diagonal to Ashley-Cooper which ended in the right wing's hat-trick try. 55-5 after 67 minutes. 21 points in a seven-minute burst.
Gagiano was off-side, the Wallabies tapped and Faingaa scored in the corner. Then it was 60-5.
It did not help the Eagles when Scully was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.
With McCabe off with a shoulder injury Radike Samo moved to the right wing. There he got a pass from Ashley-Cooper and went smoothly over for a try. 67-5 with two minutes to play.
Man of the Match: There were other Wallaby choices but our Man of the Match is Nathan Sharpe, playing his 97th Test with his usual efficiency and dedication, a man who makes work an art.
Moment of the Match: Kurtley Beale's try after a 95-metre sprint.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. The play was as honourable as the singing of the anthems.
Tries: Horne, Elsom, Beale, A Fainga'a 2, Mitchell, McCabe, Ashley-Cooper 3, Samo
Cons: Cooper 2, Barnes 4
For the United States:
Yellow card(s): Blaine Scully (USA, 73rd minute - deliberate knock down)
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Ben McCalman, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Dan Vickerman, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Pat McCabe.
United States: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Colin Hawley, 13 Tai Enosa, 12 Junior Sifa, 11 Kevin Swiryn, 10 Nese Malifa, 9 Tim Usasz (captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Pat Danahy, 6 Inaki Basauri, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Scott LaValla, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Brian McClenahan, 17 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 18 Louis Stanfill, 19 Nic Johnson, 20 Mike Petri, 21 Roland Suniula, 22 Chris Wyles.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
By Paul Dobson