Fiji almost start with 16 players as Wallaroos secure emotional win in first test in 956 days

Liz Patu scoring in the Wallaroos' win over Fiji.
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Liz Patu scoring in the Wallaroos’ win over Fiji.

The Wallaroos’ journey to October’s Rugby World Cup has begun with an emotional 36-19 defeat of Fiji that came 956 days after their last test match.

Denied a chance to wear the Australian gold since 2019 due to Covid-19, the Wallaroos channelled the emotion of a teary national anthem in a clinical performance at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Friday.

They were pushed by the dangerous Fijiana, who boasted a host of talent that recently romped undefeated to the Super W title in their maiden season.

The Wallaroos players were emotional during the national anthem on their return to test rugby.
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The Wallaroos players were emotional during the national anthem on their return to test rugby.

Up by seven with 20 minutes to play, Australia captain Shannon Parry boldly opted to kick for touch rather than kick a penalty.

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It paid off, a clinical maul from the lineout helping hooker Ashley Marsters to a crucial try in an impressive start under new coach Jay Tregonning.

“To play at Suncorp, being a Brisbane girl born and raised, it’s something special but I think the hard yards the group has put in over the past two-and-a-half years with no reward, I think you can tell on the faces of the girls what it meant to them,” Parry said.

“We had 11 debutants … when you’re in that line of the green and gold, you feel the tingling, you feel the emotion and there’s nothing quite like it.”

The Fijiana players embrace before kicking off against Australia in Brisbane.
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The Fijiana players embrace before kicking off against Australia in Brisbane.

Fijiana almost started with 16 players, a timely referee’s head count forcing reserve prop Ebony Satala back to the bench before kick off.

They were then down to 14 when Roela Radiniyavuni was yellow carded for a deliberate knockdown that led to a penalty try being awarded.

The result is a boost for the rusty Wallaroos, who will face Japan on Tuesday on the Gold Coast, ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand in October.

The Wallaroos’ backline did the early damage, center Pauline Piliae claiming player of the match, with winger Mahalia Murphy and pocket rocket winger Ivania Wong also impressive.

Piliae scored one try and set up two more while Murphy also crossed and veteran prop Liz Patu, in her 24th test, bagged a try in another impressive shift.

Fijiana hooker Vika Matarugu scored two close-range tries in the first half, while Talei Wilson kept them in the contest with a try after sustained pressure in the second half.

Fiji's Roela Radiniyavuni charging at Australia's defence.
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

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