By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIA second rower Luke Lewis, one of rugby league’s most durably and decorated forwards, suffered a dislocated shoulder colliding with an advertising hoarding as the World Cup favourites wore down Fiji.
Defenders showed immediate concern for the Cronulla Sharks star after he chased a kick with 15 minutes left in the 34-2 win at St Helens’ Langtree Park last nighrt and went down after using an arm to protect himself as he slid over the dead ball line.
It says volumes for the confidence of Australia at this World Cup that while England refuses to guarantee every player a game, the green-and-golds can be magnanimous and devastating at the same time.
Tim Sheens’ side that took on Fiji in monsoon-like conditions t featured Daly Cherry Evans, understudy to Cooper Cronk, at scrum-half and Greg Inglis in his club position of fullback.
Fiji, playing muscular, pragmatic football rather than the ebilient style we have come to appreciate with their rugby teams, tested the tournament favourites amid the winds and icy rain.
But stand-off Johnathan Thurston made light of the contrast in conditions between St Helens and Townsville with a puppeteer-like performance as the Australians gradually wore down a side made up largely of fellow NRL players.
Centre Josh Morris had an early try disallowed and the Bati attracted a hearty cheer by managing to be first on the scoresheet, with Alipate Noilea’s penalty goal at seven minutes.
Manly’s Cherry-Evans had played a key role in that near-miss and he laid on debutante Josh Papalii’s 14th-minute touchdown.
South Sydney’s Inglis did his best King Kong impersonation seven minutes later, swatting defenders near the Fiji lin before flicking to Luke Lewis who in turn served up winger Darius Boyd with Australia’s second try.
Centre Michael Jennings was no slowed by the sodden pitch as he accelerated away after leadup from Inglis on the half hour and the Australians led by a comfortable – but from the Bati’s persepective, respectable – 16-2 margin at the break.
After halftime, Australia ploughed relentlessly through the bleak Merseyside night while Fiji did go close to scoring once or twice.
Cherry Evans finished off a long-range movement to cross between the posts at 56 minutea and second rower Lewis stepped neatly past the cover to dot down himself with 15 minutes left.
But Fiji showed enough to indicate that if conditions are similarly cynclonic in Hull on Saturday night – and why wouldn’t they be – they have the structure and power to worry England.
Filed for: THE OBSERVER