Israel Folau of the Wallabies (centre) celebrates with teammates after he scored his side's third try against Fiji.
Israel Folau of the Wallabies (centre) celebrates with teammates after he scored his side's third try against Fiji. JOE CASTRO

Code-hoppers star as Wallabies trounce Fiji

TRIPLE-code stars Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt have starred in Australia's comfortable 37-14 win over Fiji in Melbourne.

Making his Test debut, 30-year-old Hunt was composed and a perfect interplay link between Folau and five-eighth Bernard Foley.

Hunt also shouldered a heavy defensive workload well and looks to have the creative midfield spark Australia has been seeking since the departure of Kurtley Beale - who will challenge Hunt for the No.12 jersey in the Rugby Championship.

"I really enjoyed it and tried to get involved as much as I could and really enjoy it ... It's good to get that one out of the way," Hunt said after the game.

"For me to put on the jersey is a huge honour for my family.

"I was very surprised (to start at 12) and my head started spinning but I managed to get my head around the plays.

"It's supercool to be back out on the park with Izzy (Folau)."

Folau scored two tries and threw the final pass for Henry Speight's second try after the full-time siren in a fine return to form in the gold jersey.

Hunt and Folau, the only men in history to play league and union for Australia as well as play in the AFL, looked as though they'd been playing together for years in the Wallabies backline.

A small crowd of 13,583 was on hand at AAMI Park to witness the opening international of the year, and while this certainly wasn't Fiji's strongest team there were enough experienced players to test Australia's defence.

It took Fiji until the 63rd minute to get on the board with winger Verinki Goneva scoring a try from broken play after dummying past Dane Haylett-Petty.

 

Sam Carter of the Wallabies goes up in a lineout.
Sam Carter of the Wallabies goes up in a lineout. JOE CASTRO

But replacement hooker Stephen Moore ensured there was no late rally by scoring a try from a lineout drive five minutes later.

Fiji's other winger Timoci Nagusa scored the visitors' second try diving over from a ruck, but Fijian-born Speight had the last laugh by crossing in the corner after a sweeping move after the hooter.

Australia led 15-0 by the 11th minute after tries to Folau and Speight along with a conversion and penalty goal from Foley.

It took just four minutes for Australia's 2017 Test campaign to take off, with Folau touching down after an aerial battle with Fiji fullback Timoci Murimurivalu.

Foley's cross-field kick left Murimurivalu isolated against Folau, and in attempting to catch the ball he spilt it into the in-goal.

Folau landed on his feet and was able to pounce on the loose ball to touch down.

Speight crossed seven minutes later after Adam Coleman created a hole with a round-the-back offload to Scott Higginbotham.

The returning Test player found Haylett-Petty on the outside, and the winger flung the ball wide.

Speight caught it on the bounce and planted the ball in the corner.

Folau was sin-binned in the 20th minute for a high tackle on Fijian flanker Naulia Dawai but Australia weren't punished.

In fact Foley landed another penalty in the time the Wallabies had 14 men to hold an 18-0 lead by the time Folau returned.

They held that margin until the break despite Fiji holding the majority of possession and territory in the final 10 minutes of the half.

News Corp Australia


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