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Paris: After 288 days without a win, the Wallabies and their loyal fans finally have something to smile about.
Australia’s Rugby World Cup campaign started just how they wanted on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST) in France as the Wallabies muscled their way to a comprehensive 35-15 victory over Georgia.
Ben Donaldson breaks forward to score his side’s third try during the Rugby World Cup against Georgia.Credit:
Coming into the tournament with five straight losses to their name, there has been underlying anxiety in the Australian camp given the team hadn’t won a Test since November when they faced Wales in Cardiff.
After Dave Rennie was sacked as coach in January, returning Wallabies boss Eddie Jones was under pressure coming into the tournament but will breathe a major sigh of relief after watching Australia run in four tries to Georgia’s two.
New Wallabies fullback Ben Donaldson was immense for the men in gold and deservedly named man of the match.
Taniela Tupou makes a break for it during the match in France. Credit:
It was a very pleasing return to the Wallabies starting XV for Donaldson as he scored two tries and chalked up 25 points in a near faultless performance that has put him in the box seat to wear the No.15 jersey ahead of Andrew Kellaway next week against Fiji.
Donaldson celebrated a cracking 56th minute try in open play after a lovely looping pass from exhausted tight-head prop Taniela Tupou who loved every moment of it.
Captain Will Skelton had his best game this year, pulling off two important turnovers at the breakdown and carrying the ball up with purpose.
Australia’s final try on a sweltering Paris afternoon in temperatures above 30 degrees came via Donaldson thanks to a well-timed pass from No.10 Carter Gordon who grew in confidence as the match went on.
However, the major concern for Jones heading into next week’s Fiji fixture is that starting halfback and vice-captain Tate McDermott could be ruled out after copping a knock to the head.
In the 35th minute, McDermott ducked into a Georgian player’s knee and immediately slumped to the turf at Stade de France. He was taken from the field and failed his head injury assessment, leaving him in doubt for next Sunday’s match in Saint-Etienne.
Australia had a perfect start when Mark Nawaqanitawase, not known for his kicking prowess, executed a lovely 50-22 that gave the Wallabies favourable field position for Jordan Petaia to dive over inside two minutes.
It was a shaky period thereafter as Gordon had a kick charged down and prop Angus Bell dropped the ball from a first phase carry.
Georgia made it 5-3 with a penalty before a terrific Petaia offload helped set up Nawaqanitawase for his maiden World Cup try.
From there, Australia applied scoreboard pressure with penalties as Donaldson kicked superbly to put the Wallabies ahead 21-3 at the break.
Donaldson booted six of his seven kicks for goal, a fortnight after Gordon left 10 points out on the field in a 41-17 defeat to France.
Called in to replace Andrew Kellaway at fullback, Donaldson was not only impressive off the tee but in general play as he directed traffic and popped up at the right spots on the field.
Jones pulled Samu Kerevi off at half-time after a reasonable opening 40 minutes in his return from a hand injury.
New Wallabies fullback Ben Donaldson was immense for the men in gold and deservedly named man of the match.Credit:
Luke Matkava scored Georgia’s first try in the 47th minute when they were down to 14 men as the Wallabies found themselves short down the right edge. An 80th minute try from the world No.11 ranked Georgians helped restore some pride.
It wasn’t all perfect for the Wallabies as their lineout faltered in the second half but there were more than enough positive signs for Jones to be content with.
Australia conceded seven penalties, to Georgia’s 13, after a year where discipline has been discussed as a major work-on.
Nawaqanitawase’s sensational try-saving tackle in the corner, late in the second half, typified the kind of spirit Jones wants to see from a young Wallabies group that walked around the field at full-time and acknowleged thousands of travelling fans in gold jerseys.
World Cups aren’t won in opening matches, particularly against a team like Georgia, but the shackles have been broken and the Wallabies are back with a bang.
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