Wallaroos win after 956-day Test drought

Pauline Piliae (c) was player of the match in the Wallaroos' 36-19 rugby Test win over Fiji.
Pauline Piliae (c) was player of the match in the Wallaroos' 36-19 rugby Test win over Fiji.

The Wallaroos' journey to October's 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 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.

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

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."

Fijiana almost started with 16 players, a timely referee's head count forcing one 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, centre Pauline Piliae claiming player of the match, with winger Mahalia Murphy and pocket rocket winger Ivania Wong also impressive.

Piliae scored one try and 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.

But the Wallaroos, anchored by backrower Parry, contained Fijiana's dangerous backline to stave off any signs of a comeback.

Parry then iced the contest with a try of her own, plucking a pass from Georgie Friedrichs' linebreak.

Fiji will return home, for the first time in three months for those who featured in the Super W victory, to a hero's welcome on Sunday.

No.8 Sereima Leweniqila said the class of the Wallaroos proved too much in the second half but would take confidence into the World Cup.

"There's a big difference between Super W and Test level; we had to step up a bit," she said.

"We learnt a lot and were able to gauge ourself ... just like the Super W, me and the coaches have faith we can bring a different style of rugby, trust ourself and play a Fijian style of rugby."

Australian Associated Press