Rugby World Cup 2007
Australia put Japan to the sword
September 8, 2007
Rocky Elsom runs in to score one of his hat-trick of tries
© Getty Images
Australia began their quest for a third world title with a 13-try blitz of under-strength Japan in a one-sided Pool B clash in Lyon today. Rocky Elsom scored a hat-trick of tries amid a superb overall display, while Berrick Barnes - making his international debut off the bench - celebrated by going over twice in the second half.
Chris Latham and Drew Mitchell also crossed twice, while Nathan Sharpe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, George Smith and Adam Freier got on the scoreboard. Stirling Mortlock kicked 20 points, while Matt Giteau added a further three conversions. Kousei Ono notched a consolation penalty in the first half for Japan, who rested most of their first-choice players for the match.
The Australians, rusty early on having not had a competitive game for seven weeks, were happy to keep it in their forwards in the first half, despite it being a day made for running rugby. After squandering some early half-chances, they relied on the kicking of Mortlock, who knocked over two penalties to nudge them ahead.
Sharpe got the ball really rolling with the first try of the afternoon, finishing off a rolling maul that had started some 25 metres from the line. Elsom, a powerful menace throughout, scored the first of his three tries in the 24th minute when he latched on to a deft inside pass from Stephen Larkham to power over.
The NSW Waratahs flanker added his second in the 31st minute after receiving a Latham floating miss-pass in the left corner. And after Ono had booted Japan's only points of the game from a penalty in the 38th minute, Elsom was at it again.
Just seconds had elapsed in the second half when the buccaneering back-row forward charged on to a pop-up pass from Larkham to gallop over from 40 metres. The Australians cranked up the pressure thereafter, Ashley-Copper and Latham - making his first start since November after knee reconstruction surgery - going over in quick succession.
Coach John Connolly made a raft of substitutions and with Japan tiring, two made an immediate impact. Barnes, with his first touch of the ball in international rugby, was fed by Gregan to jog in down the right and Mitchell showed his cutting edge by scoring two tries in seven minutes from the left wing.
Smith went over in between Mitchell's tries, before Latham hacked on for his second of the afternoon. Barnes, again, and Freier scored in the last five minutes to rub salt into Japan's wounds. There will be tougher tests to come for the 1991 and 1999 champions, starting with Wales next week.
Australia (23) 91
Japan (3) 3
Australia: Chris Latham; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri; Stephen Larkham, George Gregan; Matt Dunning, Stephen Moore, Al Baxter, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, George Smith, Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Adam Freier, Guy Shepherdson, Hugh McMeniman, Stephen Hoiles, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Mark Gerrard.
Japan: Tatsuya Kusumi, Tomoki Kitagawa, Koji Taira, Nataniela Oto, Hirotoki Onozawa, Kousei Ono, Yuki Yatomi; MasahitoYamamoto, Taku Inokuchi, Ryo Yamamura, Takanori Kumagae, Samurai Vatuvei, Yasunori Watanabe, Hajime Kiso, Takamichi Sasaki (capt).
Replacements: Yuji Matsubara, Tomokazu Soma, Hitoshi Ono, Hare Makiri, Tomoki Yoshida, Yuta Imamura, Kosuke Endo