Australia cruise past battered Fijians

Australia 66 Fiji 0
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Thoroughly battered as his side had been by Australia, the Fiji coach, Graham Murray, still fancied England to beat his fellow countrymen in the final of the Centenary World Cup, writes Dave Hadfield from Huddersfield.

There are still a couple of obstacles to be cleared, like a semi-final against New Zealand that Australia must negotiate back here on Sunday. There was nothing in this performance, however, to suggest that they will not be at Wembley on 28 October. Quite how they will line up that day - or against New Zealand - was not made much clearer by Saturday's events.

The two wingers who did not play in the defeat by England, Brett Dallas and Robbie O'Davis, both finished with hat-tricks but Fiji's wide defence was so poor that their finishing powers were hardly tested.

Rod Wishart, also their first choice goal-kicker, is expected to be fit to play on one wing next week but, if there is any doubt about him, Bob Fulton would be happy enough to leave Andrew Johns with the kicking job.

Johns, playing in the unfamiliar role of hooker, had a strong all-round game, kicking nine goals from 12 attempts. If he is to hold his place there is a prospect of both sides going into a World Cup semi-final without a hooker between them.

For Fiji, a World Cup that started so exhilaratingly against South Africa has ended with a double slap across the face. They looked close to worn out on Saturday. Hence Murray's slight leaning towards England. "England's performance against Fiji was better," the Australian-based coach said.

England was rather taken with Fiji at first sight, although the country's Rugby League followers are understandably less certain about them now.

Murray predicted, however, that the heavy defeats will not derail them. "They have plenty of pace and a lot of skill," he said.

AUSTRALIA: Brasher (Sydney Tigers); Dallas (Sydney Bulldogs), Coyne (St George), Hill (Manly), O'Davis (Newcastle); Fittler (Penryth), Toovey (Manly); Pay (Sydney Bulldogs), A Johns (Newcastle), Carroll (Manly), Menzies (Manly), Larson (North Sydney), Dymock (Sydney Bulldogs). Substitutes: McGregor (Illawarra) for Coyne, 54; Smith (Sydney Bulldogs) for Menzies, 56; Kosef (Manly) for Carroll, 66; M Johns (Newcastle) for Dymock, 69.

FIJI: Sovatabua (Panthers); Cavuilati (Sydney Bulldogs), Nalagilagi (Penryth) Seru (Illawarra), Nadruku (Canberra); Nayacakalou (Penryth), Tage (Nadi); Yasa (Lautoka), Sagaitu (N Sydney), Nakubuwai (Yanco), Dakuitoga (Penryth), Davetawalu (Nadi), Korovata (Yanco). Substitutes: Naisoro (Lautoka) for Nalagilagi, 28; Koroibuleka (Waitakere) for Nadruku, h/t; G Vatubua (Lautoka) for Naisoro, 55; Naisoro for Davetawalu, 71.

Referee: E Ward (Australia).