x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Australia bounce back with emphatic win over the United States

Australia returned to winning ways at the Rugby World Cup with a resounding win over the United States.

Adam Ashley-Cooper dives over for one of his three tries during Australia's win over the United States.
Adam Ashley-Cooper dives over for one of his three tries during Australia's win over the United States.

Australia restored authority to their Rugby World Cup campaign today, beating the United States 67-5 six days after its loss to Ireland caused the first major upset of the tournament.

Winger Adam Ashley-Cooper scored three tries in a seven-minute spell in the second half as the Wallabies improved their record against the Americans to 7-0 in all matches and to 3-0 at World Cups.

Australia's victory also ended a period of soul-searching prompted by their 15-6 loss to Ireland last Saturday, leaving them with some hope of reclaiming first place in its pool and of avoiding world champion South Africa in the quarter-finals.

But it may have come at a heavy cost with Anthony Faingaa and Pat McCabe, the centres, and Kurtley Beale, the full-back, all leaving the field with injuries.

Faingaa was take off by stretcher in the final minute after being knocked unconscious while making a tackle.

The Wallabies led only 10-5 after 23 minutes and at times in the first half seemed rudderless when harried by vigorous United States defence.

By half-time they had a bonus point through tries to Robert Horne, Rocky Elsom, Beale and Faingaa.

The second half produced seven tries.

"We spoke about it this week, that we needed to be smarter in our decision-making," Will Genia, the Australia stand-in captain, said. "The scoreline was a bit flattering but I think the best thing about our performance was the way we went about it and our decision-making."

The United States scored their only try, through JJ Gagiano, from a period of extended pressure on an Australian defensive line which was stressed and occasionally brittle.

The try was the first scored against Australia in three matches at this tournament.

After a break by scrum-half and captain Tim Usasz and lock Scott LaValla, who was stopped in a lifting tackle by Cooper, the US held the ball through 18 phases near the Australian line.

Cooper was eventually driven back over his own goal line and from the ensuing five-metre scrum, No 8 Gagiano detached and found no defence on the blindside.

Lacking a reliable source of possession through the first 30 minutes and unable to play with field position - the Americans had 59 per cent of territory before the interval - Australia were forced to depend on their counter-attack for points.

When the US dropped the ball near the Australian goal line in the 29th minute, Elsom scooped it up and launched a length-of-the-field counter which ended with a try to Beale.

It was not until the 34th minute that Australia produced a try from set move. Wycliff Palu off-loaded to Horne in a midfield gap and the inside centre was able to run his midfield partner, Faingaa, in for Australia's fourth try.

Australia lost Beale to injury just before half-time, forcing Cooper to full-back while Berrick Barnes took over at fly-half, eventually taking the goalkicking duties from Cooper, who landed two of six attempts.

The American defence began to yield early in the second half as Australia went to their bench for fresh legs. Winger Drew Mitchell scored five minutes after half-time, in his first Test for Australia this year, and McCabe, who replaced Horne, touched down three minutes later.

Ashley-Cooper became Australia's seventh individual try-scorer in the 59th minute and went on to claim a rapid hat trick. He dashed more than 65 metres for his second in the 63rd minute and added his third in the 66th.

Faingaa scored his second, and Australia's 10th, four minutes later while Radike Samo added its last in the 78th minute.

"That's the difference when you play the best sides in the world, they really punish your mistakes and that's what we learnt tonight," Usasz said. "We came here to be measured against the best and we'll learn from it."