'Great gamesmanship': Michael Hooper's cheeky sledge haunts Fiji

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has burned Fiji with a cheeky sledge as the Aussies trailed 21-12 in the second half.

The Wallabies overcame the physical Fijians after a flurry of late tries, but things weren’t going their way after a brutal 60 minutes.

But Hooper got things rolling with a smart decision to go for a penalty right in front, despite some words from the Fijians.

As Hooper signalled they would take an attempt at the three points after a penalty, a Fijian yelled out towards the captain.

“Huh? Yeah, we’re taking it,” Hooper said as he gave the thumbs up.

“Then we’ll get a try and then we’ll go in front.

“OK?”

Michael Hooper sledged Fiji in the Wallabies' victory over Fiji. (Image: Fox Sports)

The cheeky sledge came to fruition after the Wallabies bench came on the field to overcome the half-time deficit and defeat Fiji in 39-21 in Sapporo.

Wallabies legend George Gregan laughed at sledge following the game.

“It was great gamesmanship wasn’t it,” he said of Hooper’s sledge.

Wallabies overcome flying Fijians

The opening match of the tournament for both teams did not disappoint with the Fijians taking a 14-12 lead into half-time after some bone-rattling defence that caught the Wallabies off guard.

Trailing 21-12 with half-an-hour remaining on Saturday, the Australian pack took command to ensure they dodged what would have been one of the worst results in their tournament history.

Michael Hooper was caught on camera throwing a cheeky sledge at the Fijians. (Getty Images)

Despite ultimately scoring six tries to two, there is plenty of work for Michael Cheika's men to do before playing Wales next week after an error-riddled first-half performance in which they had been bullied by the Fijians.

The turnaround after the break was stark, as Australia took control of the tight exchanges, draining the energy from their opponents.

They dominated the last 35 minutes through adopting a more-conservative game plan.

Samu Kerevi (L) of Australia celebrates scoring his side's fifth try during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group D game between Australia and Fiji at Sapporo Dome. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Trying to match Fiji's flair backfired badly early as the smaller Wallabies' backs were man-handled or knocked over like tenpins.

Basic passing and attacking skills were abject at times and they struggled to put phase play together.

However, there were early hints of dominance at scrum time and in driving play, an advantage which had turned into a chasm by the end of the game.