WELLINGTON, New Zealand, September 23 – Australia have rebounded from their shock defeat to Ireland with a comprehensive 67-5 bonus-point victory over the United States to get their World Cup campaign firmly back on track.
In a must-win match after last week’s 15-6 defeat, the Wallabies withstood a gallant first-half display by a largely second-string US side but eventually ran in eleven tries as their superior physicality and slick handling shone through.
Adam Ashley-Cooper bagged a hat-trick while Anthony Fainga’a (two), Robert Horne, Rocky Elsom, Kurtley Beale, Drew Mitchell, Pat McCabe and Radike Samo all also crossed for tries. Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes banged over six conversions between them.
Number eight J.J. Gagiano crossed for a well-taken try for a US team that enjoyed a large percentage of territory and advantage in the opening 40 minutes but overcommitted at the ruck and looked leaden-footed out wide later in the game.
“We spoke about being a little bit smarter with our decision-making,” said Australian captain Will Genia. “The scoreline was very flattering but the best thing about the performance was the way we went about it and our decision-making.”
United States skipper Tim Usasz admitted his team had been handed a rugby lesson by the Wallabies.
“When you play the best sides in the world they really punish you for your mistakes, but that’s we learned tonight,” he said. “We came out here to be measured against the best and we’ll learn from it.”
After making a handful of schoolboy errors in the opening minutes, much to the enjoyment of the jeering crowd, Auckland-born Cooper was instrumental in the first try as he opened up the defence for Horne.
A sizzling break by Beale was the spark for Elsom crossing for Australia’s second just minutes later with the US defence in disarray.
The USA managed to ride out some sustained Wallaby pressure and move up into the Australian 22m area, going close with several salvos at the line.
Gagiano then delighted the crowd by picking up from the back of a fast-retreating five-metre scrum and getting past a desperate Elsom lunge to score a deserved try for the USA.
But against the run of play, Australia hit back with 12 points in four minutes.
From a knock-on close to their own line, Elsom opened up the defence, Ashley-Cooper made more ground and bounced a poor tackle to play in Beale for a try that Cooper converted.
Wycliff Palu then split the defence and off-loaded to Horne, whose pass found Fainga’a in space, the centre riding another poor tackle to ground the ball.
The second half started with Australia in control, Mitchell scoring off a simple wing move, Berrick Barnes pulling the strings superbly having replaced Beale and moved into fly-half as Cooper moved to fullback.
McCabe scored with his first touch of the ball as the floodgates opened and the Americans looked a spent force after their first-half endeavours.
Ashley-Cooper then scored a seven-minute hat-trick, first rounding off another simple backs move, then capitalising on a US handling error to run in a second, and finally the welcome recipient of a great move started by a Barnes cross-kick.
Fainga’a crossed for his second as slick handling again undid the Americans, and replacement Samo had the last word with the 11th try of the night.
But the game ended on a sour note when Fainga’a took a knee in the head and was stretchered off after several minutes of treatment.