Australia warmed to the task of regaining the World Cup as they beat Fiji 34-2 on a bitterly cold night in St Helens to book their quarter-final spot.
There was never any doubt that Tim Sheens’ men would make the last eight but the box can at least be ticked after a six-try win at Langtree Park.
The Kangaroos were not at their all-conquering best in beating England last week, but the two points practically assured them of top spot in Group A and an easier passage to the final, assuming they did not fluff their lines against Fiji or Ireland.
Mission number one was accomplished at Langtree Park, with a rejigged side strangling the passion so obvious in Fiji’s victory over Ireland last Monday.
The fact that their change side featured Greg Inglis at full-back, Jarryd Hayne on the wing and Daly Cherry-Evans at half-back also shows why they are the virtually unanimous choice to win the tournament, and they deserve even greater credit for their display considering it came amid some of the worst of the British weather.
Australia had decided from the off that the best way to deal with the storms, rain and sleet was to get moving and they thought they had scored after four minutes.
Cherry-Evans’ kick ahead was not dealt with properly, allowing Josh Morris to pick it up and ground. Replays showed no Fiji hand touched the ball, though, and as such the fact that Morris had been offside when the kick was made counted against him.
The last time these two sides met was at the 2008 World Cup when Fiji were nilled in the semi-finals, and they at least made sure that would not happen again as Alipate Noilea took the opportunity to slot a sixth-minute penalty into a fierce wind.
It was certainly not the start Australia would have anticipated and as Fiji ran their lines well and strong, they found a way back difficult to come by until debutant Josh Papalii took a Cherry-Evans pass to slide over with 16 minutes gone.
Jonathan Thurston tagged the goal and in the familiar position of being ahead, Australia set about building a lead which brought a 20th-minute reward as Inglis produced a brilliant fend to create the space for Darius Boyd to score in the corner.
The left side was giving Australia real joy and knowing they had a weakness to exploit they went there again, with Luke Lewis dumping an offload to Inglis who delayed a pass to eventual try-scorer Michael Jennings. Unlike with the second try, Thurston defeated the conditions to convert from wide out.
The teeming rain meant that half-time was a welcome distraction - especially for Australian’s iron man Paul Gallen who was uncharacteristically roughed up by Kane Evans - but the break did little to halt Australia’s dominance.
With 44 minutes gone Cherry-Evans’ kick was on the money, finding Hayne - previously a Fiji international - and he held it up in the tackle to give Morris the score he was denied in the first half.
A fifth try would have followed had Jennings not overcooked a pass to Boyd on the overlap, but it only delayed the inevitable as prop James Tamou punched his way down the middle and fed the supporting Cherry-Evans. Thurston kicked his fourth goal and the easiest of the night from bang in front.
The crowd - desperate for a contest - thought Fiji had scored in the 62nd minute as Jasyon Bukuya went in, but replays showed a ball-strip and boos greeted the decision - but there was unanimous applause as Lewis touched down, doing the necessary after a devastating Inglis break.
There was grave concern for Lewis soon after as he left the field after crashing into an advertising board, with that the only Australian complaint of the night.