As the scoreline suggests, this was your classic World Cup mismatch of the type that Campo has been campaigning against of late. That aside, the Wallabies produced a composed performance, for the most part devoid of the ‘rustiness’ excuse that usually dogs them in world cup pool games, and showed that they don’t intend to be a one trick pony in this tournament by relying on the backs to win games.
The first half had Knuckles written all over it; forward drives, using the big men in centre field to bulldoze over the gain line, rolling mauls and tactical kicking. This was the right thing to do though as Japan played with typical spirit in the first half, harrying in defence and always looking to counter-attack.
This patience from Australia resulted in a score line that built slowly, but inexorably before the break. First, two penalties from Mortlock, then a push over try through a rolling maul, followed by two bullocking open field tries from Rocky Elsom, who completed his hat-trick just after half time. Thanks to Eddie Jones for the blind sides extra motivation – the Waratah 6 matched Toutai Kefu’s record of tries scored by a forward in a world cup match, and was full of running all day.
The Wallabies went in at half time 23-3 up. And the briefing from Scott Johnson in the sheds was evident in the second half, as the team broke loose, scoring 7 tries in the last 40 minutes. There was a general sharpness about the team with their passing and running lines in the backs and forwards alike and there was far too much skill and pace on show for the Japanese. At no time was the Wallaby line truly threatened.
I plan to do a player rating in the next few days, but the back-row, especially Elsom and Smith (who moved past David Wilson as Australia’s most capped flanker with 80), really shone for the Wallabies today. The low note was the news that Mark Gerrard has torn the medial ligament in his knee which spells the end of his world cup after just sixty seconds on the pitch. The fear is that Ashley-Cooper may also be ruled out of next week’s game with a bruised toe (really?).
Green and Gold’s man of the match: Rocky Elsom (thanks Eddie, great sledge)
Have a good look at yourself: Matt Giteau – went looking for work but forgot how to catch.
See match stats here
Tries: Sharpe, Elsom 3, Ashley-Cooper, Latham 2, Barnes 2, Mitchell 2, Smith
Cons: Mortlock 7, Giteau 2
Pens: Mortlock 2
Australia: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Matt Giteau 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan (vc), 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith (vc), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dan Vickerman, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Matt Dunning.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Guy Shepherdson, 18 Hugh McMeniman, 19 Stephen Hoiles, 20 Berrick Barnes, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Mark Gerrard.
Japan: 15 Tatsuya Kusumi, 14 Tomoki Kitagawa, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Nataniela Oto, 11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 Kosei Ono, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Hajime Kiso, 7 Takamichi Sasaki (c), 6 Yasunori Watanabe, 5 Luatangi Samurai Vatuvei, 4 Takanori Kumagae, 3 Ryo Yamamura, 2 Taku Inokuchi, 1 Masahito Yamamoto
Replacements: 16 Yuji Matsubara, 17 Tomokazu Soma, 18 Hitoshi Ono, 19 Hare Makiri, 20 Tomoki Yoshida, 21 Yuta Imamura, 22 Kosuke Endo
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), Hugh Watkins (Wales)
Television match official: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)
Assessor: Bob Francis (New Zealand).