Rugby Union: Wallabies bound back to best

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The Independent Online
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AUSTRALIA returned to their best form in Sydney with the record rout of Western Samoa - a performance which Phil Kearns, the Wallabies captain on the night, described as 'awesome'.

After unconvincing series wins against Italy and Ireland, the world champions ran in 11 tries on Saturday for their highest Test score. In overwhelming the Samoans, who went into their first Test in Australian unbeaten in four tour matches, the Wallabies also recorded their biggest winning margin.

Jason Little, back after knee surgery, and Damian Smith each scored two tries, while David Knox kicked 18 points in his first full international for nine years as deputy for Michael Lynagh.

'The Samoans played well but they met us on a night when we were awesome,' Kearns said. 'We just have to play that well in 10 days' time,' he added, looking ahead to this year's one-off Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand on the same Sydney Football Ground.

Australia's stunning win proved a personal triumph for three players making their return to international rugby, but for varying reasons. Little, recalled to the side following surgery in May, began the avalanche with a try in the opening minute with his first touch of the ball.

Willie Ofahengaue also crossed the line in the first half to celebrate his inclusion in place of Ilie Tabua, while Knox landed six conversions and two penalties as the stand-in for Lynagh, Australia's regular captain who was missing because of a thigh injury. 'Some people had a few points to prove and I thought they were fantastic,' Kearns said.

The performance was in sharp contrast to the previous meeting between the two in the 1991 World Cup. Then, the Wallabies won a tryless encounter 9-3.

Australia: M Pini (D Junee, 64); D Smith, J Little, P Howard, D Campese; D Knox, G Gregan; E McKenzie, P Kearns (capt), T Daly, D Wilson, J Eales, T Gavin W Ofahengaue, G Morgan.

Western Samoa: A Aiolupo; B Lima, T Vaega, F Tuilagi, T Samania; D Kellett, V Vitale; G Latu, S Toomalatai, P Fatialofa (capt), M Keenan, S Vaifale, P Lam (M Iupeli, 51), D Mika, M Birtwhistle.

Referee: G Wahistrom (New Zealand).