Australia ran in 11 tries to rout the U.S. 67-5 at the Rugby World Cup and rebound from last week’s upset loss to Ireland.
The Wallabies got two tries in the last 10 minutes of the first half and two in the first 10 minutes of the second last night to pull away after the Americans had closed to within 10-5 on J.J. Gagiano’s 22nd-minute try at Wellington Regional Stadium.
Adam Ashley-Cooper touched down three times in less than 10 minutes in the second half as the Wallabies extended their perfect record against the Eagles to seven Test matches. The victory puts Australia at the top of Pool C, with 10 points. Ireland, which beat the Australians Sept. 17, has 8, having played one fewer match.
“It was important for us because we were very disappointed after the last game,” Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau told reporters. “We needed to set out the standard. The objective was to have structure and go according to our plan, and we did that.”
The Americans have four points, and rested some players to prepare for their Sept. 27 game with Italy, which is in third place in the group with 5 points after two games.
By losing to Ireland, Australia set itself up for a potential quarterfinal matchup with fellow two-time world champion South Africa.
Australia may find itself short in the midfield after injuries to Anthony Faingaa, who suffered a concussion; Rob Horne, who fractured his cheekbone; and Pat McCabe, who dislocated his shoulder. Wycliff Palu also injured his hamstring in the game.
The Wallabies entered rugby’s four-yearly championship after winning their first Tri-Nations title since 2001 and are rated the second favorite to lift the Webb Ellis Cup behind host New Zealand. No team has lost a pool match and gone on to take the trophy in six previous edition.
“It was more about convincing ourselves that we are genuine contender,” Australia wing Drew Mitchell said. “We have got to look at it now like we can be the first team to win it from second in our pool.”
Australia, led by Will Genia in the absence of rested captain James Horwill, dominated a U.S. team rated 14 places below it in the International Rugby Board rankings. The Eagles also featured 14 starting changes from their 13-6 win over Russia on Sept. 15.
‘Out of Steam’
“The boys showed a lot of intensity, showed what was asked of them,” U.S. captain Tim Usasz said. “We ran out of steam at the end. That’s the difference when you play the best sides in the world, they really punish you for your mistakes and that’s what we learned tonight. We came here to be measured against the best and we learned from it.”
Having managed just six points against Ireland for their lowest score in a World Cup match, the Wallabies took 11 minutes to surpass that total, with Horne scoring in the 8th minute and Rocky Elsom touching down three minutes later. Both conversions were missed.
The Americans kept the pressure up, keeping the ball in the Australians half. Gagiano touched down off a scrum near the try line as the crowd started to get into the game.
The U.S., which had 53 percent of overall possession, was able to pressure the Australians, who made 12 handling errors to six for the Americans.
Kurtley Beale and Faingaa scored within four minutes of each other just before halftime to put give Australia a 22-5 lead.
Mitchell and Pat McCabe then scored early in the second half as the two-time champions started to run at the Americans, who began to tire. Ashley-Cooper scored his first try in the 58th minute, and touched down again in the 63rd and 65th minutes.
Faingaa, who was injured just before the final whistle, went across the line five minutes later, and Radike Samo finished the scoring in the 77th minute.
Australian coach Robbie Deans said his team will look at the injuries before deciding whether to bring in replacements for the squad.
“We’ll see what the medics say before we make that sort of decision,” Deans said. “We have an eight-day turnaround now. Obviously Horne will require some attention and we’ll wait till we know the full extent of it before we make any decisions.”
Australia, which won the title in 1991 and 1999, finishes pool play against Russia on Oct. 1. The U.S. will be eliminated if Ireland beats last-place Russia this weekend.
“Our World Cup’s not over,” Usasz said. “We’ve got a big match against Italy. Our final match of the pool so we’re really looking forward to that and hopefully we can come away with a win.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org