Valentine Holmes rewrites the record books as Kangaroos crush Fiji

Holmes sweet Holmes: The Kangaroos winger crosses for one of his six tries against Fiji on Friday night.
Holmes sweet Holmes: The Kangaroos winger crosses for one of his six tries against Fiji on Friday night.

Valentine Holmes became the first Australian to score six tries in a Test as the Kangaroos demolished Fiji 54-6 on Friday to book their spot in another World Cup final.

Holmes now has 11 tries in two weeks after notching five against Samoa last weekend, and 12 for the tournament – an individual record beating Wendell Sailor's mark of 10 at the 2000 World Cup.

Fiji barely laid a finger on the Cronulla fullback who has flourished as Mal Meninga's left winger throughout the tournament.

He has played in four of Australia's five games, meaning he now averages a hat-trick every time he plays in a World Cup match.

It's the first time an Australian has scored six tries in an international since Ken Irvine grabbed six against Italy in 1960, although that wasn't classified as an official Test match.

"He's Johnny on the spot, you've got to be there you've got to be playing there," Meninga said.

"He's a great finisher, that's what makes him an excellent winger. He's doing that at the moment.

“Val openly admits all the inside work has been fantastic. The try he scored from the intercept was well read, he's there and he's scoring the tries, maybe he could've scored a couple more tonight.

"He's playing terrific footy. That's all the good work inside too, you've got to give the inside guys a bit of credit."

Holmes is incredibly now fourth on the list of all-time World Cup tryscorers.

On a night of tumbling records at Suncorp Stadium, fullback Billy Slater made that particular record his own, scoring a double to take his career tally to 16 – two clear of Jarryd Hayne. This is Slater's third World Cup. It's Holmes's first.

Time and again he finished sweeping back-line moves on the left wing, Josh Dugan the provider on most occasions.

His best was a 95m intercept early in the second half when Fiji was pressing the Kangaroos' line. He snuffed out a Kevin Naiqama pass and took off the other way, outsprinting Akuila Uate and Suliasi Vunivalu who chased in vain.

Three of his five tries came through well-worked overlaps down the luckless Vunivalu's wing.

And his second came when Vunivalu misjudged a Michael Morgan cross-field kick only for the ball to fall squarely in Holmes' lurking arms.

Then with the game in its dying embers, the Queensland crowd rose once more as Holmes received the ball 60m from home and galloped down the left touchline to complete his sextet.

"The thing that he's developed the most is his preparation, more so his mental preparation more so than physical," Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith said.

"Doing a fair bit of homework on the opposition, their kickers, where they're going to place the ball, where he needs to be positioned defensively.

"He's got great natural ability when he's got the footy."

Dane Gagai also joined in scoring a pair of four-pointers himself.

It capped another dominating performance by this marching Australian team who were in a contest for the first 10 minutes against the hard-hitting Bati, before the inevitable began to take place.

There was a brutal softening-up period which saw Aaron Woods go off with a shoulder injury and produced an early skirmish after Jarryd Hayne dished out a shoulder charge to Slater.

Much was made of Hayne in the lead-up. The last time these two sides met in a World Cup semi-final four years ago, Hayne scored three tries to propel the Kangaroos into the final.

He's no longer playing well enough to be considered by Meninga at this level. And Hayne played like he had a point to prove.

Slater was targeted throughout the evening, but he wasn't rattled.

On 14 minutes he overtook Hayne as the leading tryscorer in World Cup history when he touched down in the left corner, converting a monumental overlap created by a strong Michael Morgan charge, and an unfortunate Vunivalu slip.

This night was an ordinary one for Vunivalu too, cutting his typically imposing figure on the left wing and decorated with one black and one white boot but powerless to stop the Holmes show.

But he did manage to score Fiji's only try, finishing superbly in the right corner and breaching the Kangaroos' try line for the first time since they conceded against France earlier in the tournament.

"Being on the opposite side of that, you don't want to be on that side," Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama said.

"I was so proud of the boys effort, even when they kept scoring the effort was always there."

The winner of England and Tonga meet Australia at the same venue next week.

AUSTRALIA 54 (V Holmes 6, D Gagai 2, B Slater 2, tries; C Smith 7 goals) bt FIJI 6 (S Vunivalu try; A Koroisau goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton.


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