Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby World Cup: Loss of Australian winger mars big win

Drew Mitchell of the Wallabies lies on the ground injured and receives medical attention. Photo / Getty Images
Drew Mitchell of the Wallabies lies on the ground injured and receives medical attention. Photo / Getty Images

Australia 68
Russia 22

Australia have been stripped of another outside back with a hamstring injury ruling Drew Mitchell out of the rest of the World Cup. The Wallabies winger pulled up in the second half of their 68-22 victory in Nelson yesterday and could be replaced in the squad by Lachie Turner.

Australian coach Robbie Deans confirmed Mitchell would not take any further part in the tournament.

Skipper James Horwill said it had been tough to see Mitchell go down again.

"Obviously we are all disappointed for him and he's been through a tough time this year with injuries so hopefully it's the last of it for him," Horwill said.

Deans may have hoped his side were given a tougher workout in their final pool game but he was upbeat after the match.

"To be honest, right now we are looking ahead. We got out of the game what we sought. We've qualified for the play-offs. We'll have to wait to see who we are playing against. But it appears most likely it'll be South Africa and we'll just push on."

Injured outside backs Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane are expected to return next week. The Wallabies scored 10 tries but only won the second half 21-17 in wet conditions at Trafalgar Park in a disjointed display against the World Cup novices. Australia had secured a bonus point for scoring four tries by the 15th minute, which could be important in the quarter-finals context.

If Italy beat Ireland today and don't concede two bonus points, Australia will top Pool C and avoid South Africa in the quarter-finals.

"Overall we're happy to get the win," Horwill said. "At the back end, things didn't go the way we wanted them to. We knew they'd come out with a very spirited performance, and they did that."

Mitchell, David Pocock and Berrick Barnes all crossed twice, with Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Salesi Ma'afu also scoring. James O'Connor kicked nine from 10 attempts at goal, many from the sideline, for 18 points.

The biggest downside was the hamstring injury to Mitchell in the second half. Replacement halfback Nick Phipps went onto the wing on the opposite side of the field to 35-year-old Samo, who is usually a No. 8.

Russia achieved something Italy and Ireland failed to do: score a try against Australia. Not just one, either. Wingers Vladimir Ostroushko and Denis Simplikevich and replacement first five-eighths Konstantin Rachkov joined United States flanker J.J. Gagiano as the only players to have crossed the Wallabies' line at the tournament so far.

The result was never in doubt, with most interest coming from how Pocock fared in his first match since the 32-6 opening win over Italy. Pocock was imperious before being replaced at halftime, running freely in the loose and quick to the breakdown. Similarly, Cooper and Barnes looked effective as a partnership against modest opposition.

The scrum continued to cause trouble for the Wallabies, who lost a tighthead.

New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence also penalised the front row for two scrummaging penalties, ruling James Slipper and Ma'afu responsible when the set piece collapsed. Lawrence penalised the Wallabies five times for scrum infringements in the upset 15-6 loss to Ireland on September 17.

Australia 68 (D. Pocock 2, D. Mitchell 2, B. Barnes 2, B. McCalman, S. Moore, A. Cooper, S. Ma'afu tries; J. O'Connor 9 cons), Russia 22 (V. Ostroushko, D. Simplikevich, K. Rachkov tries; Rachkov 2 cons, drop goal). HT: 47-5.

- APNZ

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