England’s season finally came good as the hosts saw off a dynamic Wallaby
side at Twickenham with a 26-17 win on Saturday.
England’s season finally came good as the hosts saw off a dynamic Wallaby side at Twickenham with a 26-17 win on Saturday.
A first-half try from Ben Morgan, brilliantly orchestrated by the impressive George Ford, was the difference between the sides at half-time, but England will rue the litany of handling errors that have plagued their outside backs all season as several chances went begging on the wings through basic skill errors.
However, this was a victory hewn from England’s scrummaging power and the penetration of their driving maul, not an unfamiliar situation for followers of Australian rugby.
Nonetheless, as a victory it is significant for England; anything less would have thrown their season in the depths of calamity, and Graham Rowntree can take a lot of credit for the impregnable lineout and scrum that has been a feature of English rugby this November.
Australia started well, with Bernard Foley making the first inroads as England transgressed at the ruck. But the next penalty was a portent of things to come as Australia collapsed a powerful English scrum and George Ford slotted three points.
Time and time again the Wallaby eight struggled to cope with the pinching of the outstanding David Wilson and Joe Marler on the Australia tighthead and hooker, and as James Slipper was ‘disconnected’ the Aussie front row were forced either to stand up, collapse or detach as the wave of English power decimated the Australian tight five.
The scoreboard showed 12 points to the front row but frankly there were a number of occasions were Jerome Garces could quite have justifiably considered penalty tries.
Morgan’s opening score after 28 minutes was a direct result of the immense forward pressure England exerted. Chris Robshaw, a rock all afternoon, forced a turnover in his own half with Israel Folau fumbled the resulting low kick from the percussive Ben Youngs.
The resulting scrum was huge from England and as Brad Barritt made big inroads into the Wallaby defence, Youngs recycled quickly and flanker Tom Wood linked to send Morgan crashing over.
Australia are a side that relish a disparity of possession and retaliated with an exhilarating break from the outstanding Adam Ashley-Cooper down the right flank.
However, defensive systems count for a lot in modern international rugby and Anthony Watson’s awareness to stay on Ashley-Cooper as the veteran offloaded to Rob Horne, allowed Courtney Lawes to snuff out the attack with a tackle of Herculean proportions on the Wallaby wing.
With Ford missing long-range penalties either side of the break, Australia hit back with intelligence and style.
Ford coughed up the ball as Twelvetrees was smashed in the tackle by Matt Toomba. Five phases later and Foley and Horne combined to send the Wallaby fly-half under the posts, converting his own effort to bring Australia to within a penalty of England at 13-10.
Despite the very best efforts of Ashley-Cooper, who tore England’s push defence apart time and time again with his direct running approach, Australia simply couldn’t compete with England’s forward power.
After 58 minutes Mike Brown, back to his rock-like self at full-back, sent a
testing grubber deep into the Wallaby 22. The ensuing line-out gave England a five-metre scrum and Australia capitulated, giving Morgan the opportunity to scamper over for his brace.
But Australia were not going down without a fight and a crucial missed tackle by Robshaw on his opposite number Michael Hooper allowed the Wallaby flanker to combine with replacement Quade Cooper and Toomua, popping up the ball for the giant Will Skelton to thunder over the whitewash.
With England fearing a deja-vu moment, another loss in the closing minutes of the game, the men in white turned to their forwards and, right on cue, they produced a rolling maul of some 25 metres.
Australia inevitably collapsed it and Ford took the chance to take England six points clear.
Another penalty moments later led the home team to the relative safely of an eight-point lead and England clung on for dear life as they finally got the big win they so sorely needed.
In the final analysis, England will be grateful for a win and Australia will leave Twickenham wondering how on earth they disintegrated against an England scrum yet again.
However, in analysing their victory, England need to take notice of the basic handling errors they produced yet again and the lack of penetration of their backs from phase possession.
It’s a step forward for England, but when examined carefully, it’s more of a shuffle in the right direction than a confident stride.
Man of the Match: Adam Ashley-Cooper was a thorn in England’s side all day, as was the dynamic running of Michael Hooper. For England, Brad Barritt’s leadership of the defence was outstanding, as was Courtney Lawes’ physicality. But in a season where England have struggled to score tries, Ben Morgan’s brace wins him our award.
Moment of the Match: This week has been a horrific one for sport in general and Australian sport in particular. The ovation given to deceased cricketer Phil Hughes at the start of the game ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Astonishing, poignant and apt.
Villain of the Match: Nothing to report at all here. Played in wonderful
Tries: Morgan 2
Cons: Ford 2
Pens: Ford 4
Tries: Foley, Skelton
Cons: Foley, Cooper
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Marland Yarde.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.