AUSTRALIA duly advanced into the semi-finals of the Halifax Centenary World Cup, beating Fiji even more decisively than England had done in midweek.
It was a measure of Fiji's decline from popular heroes to cannon fodder in the past week that the world champions were able to inflict such punishment on them without having to play at full throttle. New Zealand, who will play them in the semi-finals next Sunday, will have taken note of the ominous way various departments of the Australian side are clicking into gear.
Both wingers, Brett Dallas and Robbie O'Davis, scored hat- tricks of tries, but the dominant figures in the Australian performance were closer to the centre of the action. Andrew Johns, normally a half-back, slotted in neatly as hooker and goal-kicker, while Brad Fittler had moments when he looked capable of beating Fiji single-handed. Fittler's first intervention was inadvertent, his pass being knocked down by a Fijian hand to allow Mark Coyne to provide Dallas with his first try.
O'Davis opened his account when Fiji's most experienced player, Noa Nadruku, made a mess of Fittler's bomb. Then a clever pass from Fittler to the rampaging Steve Menzies produced the third try, quickly followed by a shrewd kick from Johns which set up Terry Hill.
Fiji, weakened by injuries, were pushed deeper into hopelessness immediately before half-time by two flashes of sublime Fittler skill. His beautifully weighted lob over the defence created a picture-book try for Tim Brasher, and an equally good kick gave Menzies his second.
Fiji's only real achievement was to keep Australia scoreless for 17 minutes after half-time. But Australia were soon back into their relentless rhythm.
Hill went through some weak tackling for his second try and then Brasher and O'Davis linked up to send Dallas over. Dallas and O'Davis completed hat-tricks cutting through a defence which had now disintegrated, and Larson finished the rout in the last minute.
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)