The Wallabies’ worst fears have been realised. Eddie Jones’ men must beat Wales in Lyon next weekend or risk becoming the first Australian side to miss the quarter-finals after going down to Fiji 22-15.
Without Will Skelton and Taniela Tupou, Jones’ men were smashed in the contact zone by the Fijians and were consequently annihilated at the breakdown, leading to the Wallabies giving away 18 penalties.
Carter Gordon struggled to assert himself at fly-half, leading to Jones hooking the 22-year-old after 49 minutes.
The only area of the game the Wallabies dominated was at the lineout, with Nick Frost proving hugely effective on the defensive throw.
Here are our player ratings from the Wallabies’ first defeat to Fiji in 69 years.
Ben Donaldson – 6
Finished the game at fly-half. Could that be the position he plays against Wales?
Donaldson was solid at the back and his long kick was on display in the 70th minute, as he found touch well over halfway from 16 metres out.
Donaldson even got on the ball, winning a breakdown penalty in the 16th minute.
Mark Nawaqanitawase – 5.5
Scored the Wallabies’ first try with some quick thinking. After Nic White’s 50-22, Nawaqanitawase had the awareness and sensed the opportunity to play on quickly with Samu Kerevi and took the opportunity with both hands.
Unfortunately, Nawaqanitawase played his part in Fiji’s only try – a high ball left to bounce between Gordon, White and the Wallabies winger.
Nawaqanitawase shifted to fullback in the final 30 minutes, but there’s no chance he will end up there against Wales.
Jordan Petaia – 5
A huge clearing kick in the 34th minute from inside his 22 to 24m out from the Fijian line.
But it will be the other kick Petaia’s game is remembered by, as he kicked dead in goal in the 46th minute.
Samu Kerevi – 6.5
The Wallabies’ best back.
Kerevi was the one player in the Wallabies’ backline who physically went toe-for-toe against Fiji.
He made 37 metres from eight strong carries in the midfield, with two defenders beaten and two offloads.
His huge shot on Semi Radradra first phase from a scrum, where Fiji made 40 metres as they shifted the ball wide, was a belter and allowed Donaldson to get on the ball and win a vital turnover.
Kerevi had the ball ripped away in contact in the 51st minute near halfway. It was another costly turnover.
Marika Koroibete – 5
Carried the ball strongly into contact but rarely was in a one-on-one position.
Koroibete missed a few too many tackles and sliced a kick away in the 35th minute.
Carter Gordon – 3.5
Hooked in the 50th minute.
Gordon lost the ball twice in contact, as the young playmaker struggled against a fired-up Fijian side that flexed their muscles.
He was also bundled into touch after taking a clearing box kick, too.
The playmaker, who often defended in the back three, also failed to get a hand on an up-and-under that was allowed to hit the turf, paving the way for Tuisova’s try – Fiji’s only five-pointer.
Gordon will be in the matchday 23 next week against Wales. Whether he starts remains to be seen.
“Carter is a young 10. He’s going to have those days but he’ll bounce back, he’s a good young player,” Jones said about Gordon.
Nic White – 4.5
One fine 50-22, which led to Nawaqanitawase’s only try of the match.
But that moment of joy was few and far between for not only White, but the Wallabies.
White’s box kick in the 18th minute saw the halfback apologise to his teammates for turning over the ball as it ran dead in goal.
While it was an unfortunate bounce, it also summed up the Wallabies’ poor kicking accuracy and decision-making.
After working the short side, White gave possession away and kicked when few of his teammates were in a position to chase it.
His high shot on Simione Kuruvoli saw Fiji regain the lead, as they moved to a 9-8 lead after 27 minutes.
White was also partly responsible for Tuisova scooping up the crumbs and scoring, as he attempted to shadow players off the ball for Gordon to run onto it instead of trying to catch the ball himself.
Rob Valetini – 7.5
One of the Wallabies’ best. Valetini was physical and tried to take it to Fiji.
He topped the run count (11 for 38 metres) and the tackle count (11). But those numbers don’t necessarily reflect the sting he put in on both sides of the ball.
One loose carry in the 16th minute.
Fraser McReight – 5.5
Replaced in the 59th minute by Rob Leota, McReight was busy on both sides of the ball. But how effective was he in the grand scheme of things?
Gave away a penalty in the 20th minute for going off his feet at the ruck. It led to Fiji going 6-3 up.
Tom Hooper – 5
Despite being busy on both sides of the ball, Hooper struggled to make a real impact on the game.
Richie Arnold – 4.5
Discipline was Arnold’s main issue.
The big lock gave away three penalties, including not rolling away in the 11th minute and playing the halfback in the 64th minute, but he was hard done by in the 45th minute when he was pinged for being offside after making a charge down. Had it been play on, the Wallabies would likely have scored.
The lineout operated very well, however.
Nick Frost – 8.5
Frost made four lineout steals in a strong return to the Wallabies after missing the past two Tests because of an ear issue.
He was also present with the ball-in-hand.
James Slipper – 4.5
Penalised at the maul (32nd minute) and the scrum (47th).
Slipper fought hard in his return from a foot injury but wasn’t able to dominate the Fijian scrum like Taniela Tupou would have.
Dave Porecki (c) – 6.5
While Porecki was penalised in the 58th minute for not releasing in what proved to be a crucial moment, the Wallabies’ 88th Test captain was strong at the set-piece.
His lineout operated very well.
Angus Bell – 7.5
Carried well and was strong in contact, Bell got well over the gain line with his first carry in the second minute and also made a half linebreak in the second half before Suliasi Vunivalu kicked away possession.
Jordan Uelese – N/A
Knocked out shortly after coming onto the field, Uelese was pinged once for not releasing during the Wallabies’ horror five minutes midway through the second half.
Blake Schoupp – N/A
Came on very late for Bell.
Zane Nonggorr – 4.5
After coming on in the 56th minute, Nonggorr was beaten at the scrum but was effective on both sides of the ball.
Matt Philip – N/A
Came on late for Arnold, Philip almost made a lineout steal but his effort went into touch.
Rob Leota – 4
Barely sighted after coming on midway through the second half.
Issak Fines-Leleiwasa – 5.5
Came on after 56 minutes, Fines-Leleiwasa managed to increase the tempo of the game.
The running threat bounced out from the ruck but his box kick in the 67th minute was another example of giving away possession. Fortunately, Lalakai Foketi did well to get on the ball from the next phase to make it a positive result.
Lalakai Foketi – 5
Got on the ball in the 68th minute to make Fines-Leleiwasa’s box kick turn out positively.
Suliasi Vunivalu – 5
Scored a try in the 69th minute but also gave away possession 10 minutes earlier after kicking long and finding the dead ball line. It was the wrong play, with the Wallabies needing to quickly recycle and go again.