2020 started as all new seasons start: slowly.
Clint Gutherson scored a hat-trick but Payne Haas and Scott Morrison stole the show in a 52-10 flogging of Fiji by the Prime Minister’s XIII in Suva.
Gutherson starred and Haas was at his powerful best in his first senior outing in green and gold.
Playing against a Fiji residents side lacking their NRL stars, the Australians dominated on Friday night from the outset as they piled on 11 tries to two.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at one stage ran drinks and delivered the kicking tee, as he became the first PM to attend a match involving the side named in his honour.
Gutherson scored two first-half tires in the 42-point rout, while Haas finished with a try, ran 141 metres and made eight tackle busts.
After Fiji knocked on in the opening set, they were never in the match, with the PM’s XIII rushing out to a 14-0 lead within ten minutes before the hosts next had a play-the-ball.
Kyle Feldt did the initial damage for the PM’s XIII when he beat three defenders off the scrum, before Haas went over untouched moments later.
Campbell Graham scored the next, capitalising on another set for the Australians when Fiji fumbled a Mitchell Moses cross-field kick.
Haas was again in the action before halftime, when a powerful run and quick play-the-ball allowed Jake Trbojevic to put Gutherson over with an inside ball.
It comes as the 19-year-old Haas prepares to make his Kangaroos debut later this month, called into the Australian squad after a booming rookie season for Brisbane.
Gutherson’s second came after some Moses magic, the Parramatta halfback skipping through the line from 30 metres out and turning the ball back inside for his Eels fullback.
The hat trick was complete when fellow Eel Reed Mahoney broke down the left edge in the second half, before putting Gutherson over to finish the job.
Bronco David Fifita later claimed the best try of the match, busting through from his own end to score in the corner, before later offloading to put Cody Walker across to take the score past 50.
Reuben Garrick, Feldt and Paul Momirovski also claimed second-half tries, as Fiji also scored one either side of the break to put the Suva crowd into raptures.
It came on a big night for Fijian rugby league, after it was confirmed they would have a side in the Ron Massey Cup next year and NSW Cup in 2021.