The Wallabies have survived a massive second half scare to beat Manu Samoa 34-15 in Sydney but are sweating on a thumb injury to Adam Coleman as they prepare to fly to Japan for the Rugby World Cup.
A mix and match Australia selection was cruising up 22-3 at halftime at Bankwest Stadium before some scrum wobbles sent the good ship Michael Cheika veering worrying off track.
Samoa’s super-sub scrumhalf Dwayne Polataivao scored two second half tries to bring the visitors within seven points with less than 20 minutes to play.
The ‘Manu’ faithful burst into delirious song and were daring to dream of back-to-back shock upsets of the Wallabies — having stunned them 32-23 in their last meeting in the same city eight years ago.
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Samoa can’t stop Koroibete
Tom Banks was missing touch and Cheika was throwing his head back in disgust as the scrum was shunted backwards repeatedly after Taniela Tupou entered the fray.
But Dane Haylett-Petty and Matt To’omua’s late tries saved Australia’s blushes and prevented what would have been a demoralising defeat a fortnight out from their World Cup opener against Fiji.
Lock Coleman added to the night’s complications when he left the field clutching his thumb in the second half.
Perhaps some of the sloppiness can be excused by heavy legs in the Wallabies squad following a gruelling 10-day conditioning camp in New Caledonia.
And of course these games will count for naught when the whips are actually cracking in Japan.
But there is nothing to suggest Australia are about to shed their familiar Jekyll and Hyde habits on the back of the 1-1 Bledisloe Cup series rollercoaster last month.
Samoa are ranked 16th in the world — one below Tonga who were annihilated 92-7 by the All Blacks earlier in the day in Hamilton.
The Wallabies coaching staff will at least clutch to a solid opening 40 minutes as they go through the tape.
In that time the Australians played plenty of slick rugby at Bankwest Stadium to score four first half tries.
Man of the match winger Marika Koroibete provided the highlight play, bouncing off Samoan defenders like a pinball to score the Wallabies’ second try in the 19th minute.
Captain David Pocock — who got through an hour in his first game in six months after recovering from a calf injury — kicked things off by putting an unmarked Coleman over for the opening score.
To’omua then produced a lovely left foot dink in behind for veteran Adam Ashey-Cooper to dot down while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto muscled his way over from 10m out.
All up, the Wallabies scored six tries to Polataivao’s two with five-eighth Bernard Foley converting just two.
With a mixed display Foley likely didn’t do enough to unseat Christian Lealiifano from the World Cup No 10 jersey but inside centre To’omua did some good things and No 8 Jack Dempsey pressed his claims with powerful ball-carrying and shots in defence.
Coleman and Rob Simmons also caused the Samoa lineout headaches but the scrum issues will be of major concern to Cheika and forwards coach Simon Raiwalui.
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