Clinical Kangaroos crush Fiji
Hat-tricks for Slater and Thurston in Sydney
Last Updated: 17/11/08 9:48am
Thurston is congratulated after scoring one of his three tries
Australia ran in ten tries as they demolished Fiji 52-0 to set up a World Cup final showdown against New Zealand.
It could have been one of any number of the Aussies, but Slater's silky skills, mazy running and hat-trick of tries get him the nod.
Ricky Stuart's awesome Kangaroos outfit produced a near-faultless display in their semi-final in Sydney with five tries in each half and hat-tricks for both Billy Slater and Jonathan Thurston.
Brent Tate helped himself to a brace while Paul Gallen and Greg Inglis also touched down, the only black mark on the night for Australia a hip injury to Tate which forced him off the field at half-time and has left him a major doubt for next Saturday's final.
Although the scoreline tells a different story, Fiji put in a spirited display with series of crunching hits and a few near misses on the Australian line.
But the Australians were as committed and professional defending their goal-line as they were inventive and powerful going forward and will head into next weekend's final strong favourites to retain their World Cup crown.
The Kangaroos served notice of their intent with three tries in the opening ten minutes immediately knocking the stuffing out of their opponents.
The Fijians did not help themselves as they lost the ball on just the second tackle of the game and there was a sense of inevitability as Paul Gallen crashed over from close range with barely a minute on the clock - Thurston added what was to be the first of six successful conversions.
Slater had a hand in that first try with a jinking run and the full-back was back in the line on six minutes to receive a pass from Darren Lockyer before releasing Tate who sped over in the corner unopposed.
Slater claimed the first of his three tries shortly afterwards as he got the better of Alipate Noilea and Daryl Millard to claim a chipped kick from Thurston next to posts and touch down.
Defence into attack
Tate was the next over the whitewash as Lockyer brilliantly sprung defence into attack with a sweeping pass out wide to Israel Folau, the centre in turn finding Tate who outpaced Millard and Jarryd Hayne down the line before cantering around to score under the posts.
However, the winger's night soon turned sour as he went down clutching his hip with no player close to him. While he did survive until half-time, it seems highly likely his tournament could now be at an end.
Fiji rallied following Tate's second try and finally made an impact in terms of territory and possession having been blown away by the Australian juggernaut in the early stages.
But any lingering hopes they may have harboured were extinguished two minutes before the interval as Slater ducked over in the corner for his second score and a try that put him on his own as the tournament's leading scorer with six overall.
He made it seven by completing his hat-trick eight minutes into the second half as Lockyer used a couple of dummy runners before offloading to allow the full back an unopposed cruise to the line.
It was Thurston who then took centre stage as he matched Slater's feat with a nine-minute hat-trick of his own.
The first arrived on 62 minutes as he bulldozed through the tackles of Noilea and Hayne on the Fiji line to score from close range, with Carmichael Hunt supplying the pass for his second four minutes later.
The third was the simplest of the lot as Hayne spilt whilst attempting to offload allowing Thurston to scoop up the loose ball, trot to the line and place down under the posts.
The Kangaroos arguably saved the best until last with Inglis showing scintillating pace and strength before producing a breathtaking finish to reach out and touch down one-handed in the corner despite the best attempts of a Fiji tackler.
An imperious display from the Green and Golds and it would take a brave man to bet against them finishing the job against New Zealand in Brisbane next week.