South Sydney Rabbitohs rep stars Damien Cook and Dane Gagai put in some solid performances in Australia's 34-16 victory over Tonga in front of a packed out Mt. Smart Stadium.
From the outset the match established plenty of physicality, with Cook getting involved early in the first tackle of the match in a three-man tackle.
The Dally M Hooker of the Year continued his high involvement early on, constantly taking advantage of the open ruck and keeping the second phase play going with some handy offloading.
While his first fifteen minutes was quiet, Gagai made his presence known through a textbook tackle on front-rower Andrew Fifita from the kick-off which dislodged the ball, earning his side some much-needed possession after Tonga had just closed Australia's 12-nil advantage to 12-6.
The Rabbitohs outside back continued his input late in the first half by sending his centre Tom Trbojevic through for Australia's fourth try. Cook himself had a hand in Australia's next try of, spreading the ball out wide which saw Valentine Holmes touch down with the Kangaroos go 30-10 up into the break.
Cook closed out the half topping his side's tackle count with 25 with an 89% tackle efficiency, while Gagai finished the first stanza with 59 running metres, a try assist and a linebreak.
The Queensland representative continued his strong defensive display, batting the ball into touch after a Tongan attacking raid in the 45th minute, saving a possible try.
After 51 minutes Cook earned a well-deserved break with a stint on the bench, finishing his first stint with 37 tackles to his name.
Having set up his inside man for a try earlier in the match, Gagai nearly bagged one himself in the 57th minute, only to be dragged into touch by the fierce Tongan defence. He continued to keep busy through grunt work from his own half and taking some brilliant catches under the high ball in pressure situations.
With less than ten minutes to go, the George Piggins Medalist returned to the field and again continued his strong defensive work, putting his body on the line on a number of occasions, saving the day by diving on a loose ball on the Australian line. Despite being sin-binned with a minute and a half left, Cook and his side had already done the job.
Eventually Australia ran out 34-16 victors, with two solid performances from the two Rabbitohs with Gagai finishing with 97 running metres, and Cook with a game-high 42 tackles.