Australia suffer high injury toll after hammering US 67-5
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Australia’s Wallabies beat the United States 67-5 in the Rugby World Cup Friday, six days after losing to Ireland, but its victory was tainted by a heavy injury toll.
AP - Australia suffered a grim injury toll as it restored some authority to its Rugby World Cup campaign on Friday, beating the United States 67-5 six days after its loss to Ireland caused the first major upset of the tournament.
Winger Adam Ashley-Cooper scored three tries in a seven-minute spell in the second half as the Wallabies won by 11 tries to one, improving their record against the Americans to 7-0 in all matches and to 3-0 at World Cups.
Australia’s victory also ended a period of soul-searching prompted by its 15-6 loss to Ireland, leaving it with some hope of reclaiming first place in its pool and of avoiding world champion South Africa in the quarterfinals.
Center Rob Horne suffered a fractured cheekbone Friday in the most serious of a catalog of injuries which afflicted the Australian team. Horne’s recent career has been cluttered with hamstring injuries and his World Cup campaign may have begun and ended in the first minute of his first test in more than 12 months.
His midfield partner, Anthony Fainga’a, was knocked unconscious in the final minute of the match while making a tackle. Fainga’a lay motionless for several minutes before being taken off the field on a stretcher and faces a likely layoff due to a concussion.
Pat McCabe suffered a dislocated shoulder after replacing Horne in the second half and faces a potentially long layoff, leaving the Australians to decide whether a midfield replacement may be necessary.
The Wallabies have eight days before their next match against Italy and coach Robbie Deans said they would take that time to decide what backup may be needed.
“We’ll see what the medics say first before we make that sort of decision,” he said.
Deans expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance on Friday, although there were still clear areas of concern, not least the performance of flyhalf Quade Cooper. Cooper finished the game at fullback in a rearranged backline but struggled in the early stages to impose Australia’s game plan.
“We’re pretty pleased, actually,” Deans said. “It wasn’t perfect but there were elements in that game that we made good progress on and in the circumstance, with the amount of changes and so on, they retained their momentum and approached the game with a slightly better mentality, a bit more discipline in their decisions.”
When Berrick Barnes took over from Cooper near halftime, marking his own return from a long layoff caused by head injuries, the Australian backline functioned more smoothly.
“We spoke about it this week, that we needed to be smarter in our decision-making,” Australia captain Will Genia said. “The scoreline was a bit flattering but I think the best thing about our performance was the way we went about it and our decision-making.”
The United States scored its only try, to J.J. Gagiano, from a period of extended pressure on an Australian defensive line which was stressed and occasionally brittle. The try was the first scored against Australia in three matches at this tournament.
After a break by scrumhalf and captain Tim Usasz and lock Scott LaValla, who was stopped in a lifting tackle by Cooper, the U.S. held the ball through 18 phases near the Australian line.
Cooper was eventually driven back over his own goal line and from the ensuing five-meter scrum, No. 8 Gagiano detached and found no defense on the blindside.
Lacking a reliable source of possession through the first 30 minutes and unable to play with field position - the Americans had 59 percent of territory before halftime - Australia was forced to depend on its counterattack for points.
When the U.S. dropped the ball near the Australian goal line in the 29th minute, Rocky Elsom scooped it up and launched a length-of-the-field counter which ended with a try to Kurtley Beale.
It wasn’t until the 34th minute that Australia produced a try from set move. Wycliff Palu off-loaded to Horne in a midfield gap and the inside center was able to run his midfield partner, Faingaa, in for Australia’s fourth, bonus point try.
The American defense began to yield early in the second half as Australia went to its bench for fresh legs. Winger Drew Mitchell scored five minutes after halftime, in his first test for Australia this year, and McCabe, who replaced Horne, touched down three minutes later.
Ashley-Cooper became Australia’s seventh individual try-scorer in the 59th minute and went on to a rapid hat trick. He dashed more than 65 meters for his second in the 63rd minute and added his third in the 66th.
Faingaa scored his second, and Australia’s 10th, four minutes later while Radike Samo added its last in the 78th minute.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed to lose the game but there were no shocks,” Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan said. “Australia were hot favorites. Overall the scoreline was probably a little harsh.
“I thought we played some good rugby at times (but) a little inexperience and the pressure Australia brought to bear meant we gave up some long-range tries which were a killer.
“I think Australia had something to prove as well so they didn’t let up on us at any stage.”