Fortunate England see off Wallabies

Date published: November 3 2013

Two second-half tries from Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell gave England a peculiar 20-13 victory over Australia at Twickenham.

Two second-half tries from Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell gave England a peculiar 20-13 victory over Australia at Twickenham.

Cagey in the first half, a combination of a powerful scrum and extreme fortune reversed the tide after the break thanks to England's two tries.

The optimist's view will highlight that England won whilst playing poorly, an eighth win in their last nine matches as Stuart Lancaster picked up his 13th win in 20 matches as England coach. Yet Lancaster is England's harshest critic, and he will know that they have plenty to work on.

There were certainly positives. Billy Twelvetrees effort on Matt Toomua aside, England defended well and their scrum was rampant. Argentina will provide better competition in that area next weekend, but it means England have a platform for when their backline begins to click.

Australia's haphazard scrum and line-out meant they never enjoyed as much possession as their hosts. Moments of execution – kicks to touch, discipline and Quade Cooper's goalkicking as the match went on – were way off the mark from their exciting performance against New Zealand in Dunedin.

The Wallabies looked to have made plenty of progress in their two most recent matches, but there was no consistency at Twickenham. Three wins in the last four years have made England's home a happy hunting ground for the Wallabies, but when chasing the game their play at times was dire.

England's Rugby World Cup squad were in the stands to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that famous night in Sydney, but there has been only one Six Nations title to celebrate in the time since.

To highlight the alarming contrast between that success and the decade since, England spluttered their way through a first half where they lacked the cutting edge required to win a Test match. The parading of the Webb Ellis trophy by Sir Clive Woodward and the 2003 squad around the field felt almost cruel.

One fear before the match that England's dominant scrum would be blunted following the loss of Alex Corbisiero proved to be unfounded, as Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole were in charge throughout against their Wallaby counterparts.

Farrell's first attempt at goal sailed over but his next three were wayward, a couple of off-key moments turning into desperation from the normally reliable Saracens number ten.

Israel Folau shone everytime a high ball was sent his way – not exactly a rare occurance as kicking dominated the whole game – but scrum and lineout woes unraveled promising field position for the Wallabies over and over again.

With Australia's penalty count rapidly rising, Michael Hooper was fortunate to avoid yellow as England finally re-took the lead. This time Farrell glanced the ball off the post the right way.

Folau continued to be at the heart of Australia's best efforts and he busted Chris Ashton's tackle – released by a blinding pass from Cooper – to create the first try for Toomua as barreled his way over a hapless Billy Twelvetrees.

Cooper's penalty immediately afterwards gave Australia a 13-6 advantage to take into the interval, as England plodded their way forward to suck up time and phases – but created no points.

Questionable decision-making hurt England early in the second half, when Marland Yarde was penalised for a late tackle, but Cooper's kick faded away to the left.

England needed a lucky break and after Brown clearly lost the ball into touch and Chris Ashton botched a quick penalty, Yarde was given a chance to test the Wallabies down the left wing. He nearly made them pay with a bright burst down the touchline, but was expertly tackled by Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Luck then quite literally fell England's way, as Genia was charged down by Tom Wood for the captain Robshaw to pounce on the loose ball and level the scores.

They had an extra slice of fortune for Farrell's try shortly after. Dylan Hartley was deemed to have not been obstructed Ben Mowen enough as the England fly-half strode through to score.

Cooper missed another crucial opportunity for points to keep England ahead by seven heading towards the final ten minutes, but the Wallabies threw caution to the wind.

A sharp counter-attack from Nick Cummins had England scrambling and with Cooper's radar misfiring, they kicked into the corner. It looked threatening and Australia edged closer to the five-metre line, until Ben Alexander coughed up the ball and the Wallabies' hopes went with it.

Man of the Match: He may have been lucky in the build-up to Robshaw's try, but Mike Brown: was influential for England at the back. Credit to Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Moment of the Match: It has to be Owen Farrell's try, for putting the hosts into a lead that Australia couldn't chase down.

Villain of the Match: The minor block from Dylan Hartley was clearly obstructive. When has not enough obstruction been a thing?

For England:
Tries: Robshaw, Farrell
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 2

For Australia:
Try: Toomua
Con: Cooper
Pens: Cooper 2

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Joe Marler, 18 David Wilson, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Ben Foden.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sepoke Kepu, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Bernard Foley.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

by Ben Coles