Rugby World Cup: Wallabies suffer devastating injury toll in big win

By Dylan Cleaver

Australia 67 USA 5
Flying try-scoring Australian wing Adam Ashley-Cooper. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Flying try-scoring Australian wing Adam Ashley-Cooper. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Australia may have got their World Cup campaign back on the rails last night, but against an American team missing their best players, who would know?

And the injury toll the Wallabies suffered could cancel out any gains they might feel they made in their 11-try romp.

Rob Horne (fractured cheekbone), Pat McCabe (dislocated shoulder) and Anthony Faingaa (concussion) all went off - Faingaa on a stretcher - with injuries that could take some time to heal.

As well, Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu left the ground feeling their hamstrings.

The Wallabies scored some nice tries, some from long-range, but this had the feel of an opposed training session, a sense heightened by a Wellington Stadium pockmarked in several places by empty seats.

Perhaps the casual fans were put off by the fact the USA waved the white flag during the week, naming a starting side without captain Todd Clever and the Suniula brothers Roland and Andrew.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the third-place team getting automatic entry to the next tournament is that it promotes defeatism, which has cheapened several games in pool play.

We saw Japan fielding a second-string team against the All Blacks, and here we had USA coach Eddie O'Sullivan making 14 changes from the team that beat Russia.

Rather than third place being the unfortunate byproduct of not finishing in the top two, it becomes a goal in itself.

The short turnarounds the outsiders get do not help, but there is still something nonsensical about teams with little depth not playing close to their strongest XV for all four games.

It's a pragmatic approach, but how many people pay to see pragmatism.

The only people queuing up here were Australians anxious to get on the scoresheet.

There was temporary intrigue midway through the first half when Rocky Elsom missed a defensive assignment off a scrum and USA No 8 JJ Gagiano strolled over in the corner.

That made it 10-5, and the Americans were soon on attack and pressing for another try.

But wing Kevin Swiryn lost the ball in contact, 20 seconds later Kurtley Beale was touching down at the other end and that was as close as the USA were ever going to get.

Australia bettered the USA in all departments, particularly in the backs where they threatened clean linebreaks every time they received the ball.

Adam Ashley-Cooper - moved to the wing to accommodate Rob Horne and Faingaa in the centres - had a field day, scoring a hat-trick.

Faingaa added a double before knocking himself cold in a tackle, and of the starting backs, only Will Genia and Cooper did not score tries.

Cooper gave his ever-expanding band of detractors plenty to smile about with several missed conversion attempts before replacement Berrick Barnes took over the kicking duties.

Australia face one more game in Pool C, with another romp, this time against Russia in Nelson, pencilled in for next Saturday.

The USA becomes the second team to complete their pool programme when they face Italy, also in Nelson, on Tuesday.

Australia: 67 (Adam Ashley-Cooper 3, Anthony Fainga'a 2, Rob Horne, Rocky Elsom, Kurtley Beale, Drew Mitchell, Pat McCabe, Radike Samo tries; Berrick Barnes 4 conversions, Quade Cooper 2 conversions).

USA: 5 (JJ Gagiano try).

Half-time: 22-5.

- NZ Herald

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