Holmes proves Test worth on wing
Is Valentine Holmes a better fullback or winger? He may have answered that question himself with a record-breaking five try performance against Samoa on Friday night.
There's no doubting the Kangaroos look a far more formidable football team with Billy Slater in the No.1 jersey.
They tinkered with the formation of their side last week and handed Holmes the responsibility of playing fullback against Lebanon.
But he lacked the off-the-ball instinct and ball-playing ability the Melbourne No.1 possesses that allows him to put himself and those around him in try-scoring situations.
Holmes could well be the best winger in the NRL. He showed why with five tries to knock Samoa out of the World Cup in a 46-0 quarter final shellacking in Darwin.
The fact Holmes has found his home on the wing is a bonus for the Kangaroos but a conundrum for his club side, Cronulla, who have three world class fullbacks to choose from next year given the arrivals of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan.
Holmes' strong performances on the wing for the Kangaroos is further proof that his best position is on the end of a backline given his freakish ability to find his way over the try-line. Problem is he wants to be a fullback and is on fullback money at the Sharks.
But for Australia there's no doubt where he belongs.
There was no better example than Australia's sixth try of the night, with a flying Holmes latching on to a superb catch-and-pass cut-out ball from Slater to bag his third try of the night – something that may not have come off should the roles have been reversed.
"He put himself in that position," Meninga said of Holmes.
"He runs hard and gets an opportunity. His support play was pretty good. He deserved the reward he gets by putting all the effort in."
The biggest positive for Australia is that after four weeks in the World Cup, they finally rediscovered their mojo.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga openly expressed his desire before the tournament to give all members of his 24 man squad some game time.
He did that in the first three games of the tournament, chopping and changing his 17. But it came at the expense of the continuity and rhythm his team could build, sacrificing the opportunity to work on developing combinations.
In each of their first three games of the tournament, Australia looked like a football team that had only just came together. The panache they usually play with had been missing.
In Darwin on Friday night, they showed the first signs of progression. It had to come then, too. Especially with a potential semi-final against New Zealand in Brisbane looming next weekend.
"Very happy defensively holding them to zero," Meninga said.
"Given the conditions we had a bit of a plan around carrying the footy. We implemented that really well too. It was an area we were concentrating on around the completion. I wanted us to complete and get to the end of the sets.
"These conditions we had to do that. We did it. We put the Samoan side under a fair bit of pressure.
"It was tough. They kept hanging in there, mentally strong and maintained their enthusiasm."
The Kiwis will have to get past Jarryd Hayne and Fiji first. And given the way New Zealand have played throughout this tournament, you wouldn't put it past a passionate Fijian side to spring the upset of the World Cup.
If Australia were nervous about a potential semi-final showdown against the Kiwis, who many expected to meet the Kangaroos in the final, then Friday night's performance might have eased their concern.
Last week against Lebanon the Kangaroos went into half time holding on to a narrow 10-0 lead against a football team predominantly made up of part-timers.
Six days later against a Samoan team filled with NRL talent, they went into the break with a 30 point buffer such was their improvement in execution.