Planet Rugby

Australia rise above the grind

12th June 2010 10:46

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Quade Cooper try v England

Quade Cooper: Scored a second try on a fine display

Australia delivered a patchy performance, but had enough creativity to deny England a victory in Perth on Saturday, winning 27-17.

The Wallabies were guilty of making all the play, but still haven't quite found each other's rhythm. That will come. Of more concern will be the pasting meted out to Australia's emerging front-row resources which yielded both England's scores from a series of scrums.

That made the score look good for England, but frankly, they were rubbish. The sterling forward effort in the tight notwithstanding, England were never in the game.

Each time Australia scored, the tries were well-crafted movements, full of running angles, width-of-the-pitch movements, miss passes and acceleration. Each time England got the ball, it went either into the air or up the jumper.

Late in the first half, England had the ball in Australia's 22. They went through eleven stodgy, slow and, ultimately, smothered phases for a gain of minus four metres, then spun the ball wide to the backs who could easily have been slumbering gently by this point. The backs lost it. Perhaps they just hadn't warmed up yet.

That both England's tries were penalty tries says a lot, both about the limits of England's attack and of Australia's scrum.

Australia's backs - and a fair few forwards - were trying all sorts early on and Australia were far superior in the first half as a result. Quade Cooper proved so much of a nuisance that efforts made to mark him simply left gaps for others. Drew Mitchell terrorised the England defence at any opportunity, as did Digby Ioane. James O'Connor was assured at full-back and was also a threat, while the back-row and props were prominent for their ability to run hard at spaces.

Only a little more gelling and time between the players is required for this to become a formidable team.

Yet England were able to claw their way back from 14-0 down at half-time, as Australia just failed to make enough of the hard yards in the second half. England proved adroit at targeting weaknesses - scrums and line-outs from Australia need some work - and Ben Foden also created a few problems from loose kicks. England were far too restricted for most of the match, Australia just a little too carefree at times.

After 30 minutes, the Wallabies had made just nine tackles such was their control of the game and England were fortunate to only be 14-0 down.

Luke Burgess, Australia's second-choice scrum-half, was running England ragged and his blind-side break would have created the opening score but for a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Chris Ashton.

But it was finger-in-the-dam stuff from England and the inevitable try came when Drew Mitchell counter-attacked from Danny Care's clearance.

Mitchell beat Ashton to race into the England 22 and when the ball was whipped wide, Elsom galloped over for the opening try.

Referee Nigel Owens lectured Australia's disintegrating front row but Flood missed with a 48-metre penalty and England's attacking play was laboured and error-strewn.

Tom Croft finally got involved with his first carry of the day, but just when England thought they had put Mark Cueto through a gap, referee Owens called them back for a knock-on.

In contrast, the Wallabies were ruthless. Elsom stole a line-out from Croft, and Burgess left Hape flailing in midfield before flicking the ball for Cooper to score under the posts.

England took the bold option of kicking a penalty for touch and spent the remainder of the half camped inside Wallaby territory, but came away empty handed.

Care was scragged as he tried a sniping run and Simon Shaw carried with intent but the Wallabies' aggressive defence drove England backwards.

England's attack simply could not ask enough questions, and when Hape did offload in the tackle for Tindall, referee Owens ruled it had drifted forward.

Lewis Moody scraped himself off the turf after catching Mitchell's elbow in a tackle early in the second half.

Flood put England on the scoreboard after another scrum penalty early and Ben Foden then atoned for a shocking clearance by launching a counter-attack from deep.

Ashton surged into the Australian half and Tindall burst 30 yards before being hauled down, but England were throwing the kitchen sink at the Wallabies.

Shaw and Steve Thompson were halted on the line and it took four men to stop Dan Cole's drive under the posts before Croft spun over the line but he was held up.

England had the Wallabies under immense pressure at the ensuing five-metre scrum and after two re-sets referee Owens awarded the penalty try.

Incredibly England were back within four points - but not for long.

Cooper threw a beautiful cut-out pass to winger Digby Ioane, who was halted by Cueto's tackle but offloaded back inside where the Wallaby fly-half scored his second try of the game.

England sent on Ben Youngs for Care and the Leicester scrum-half brought some snap to their game while Courtney Lawes came on for Shaw.

Tindall tried to drive over before Youngs snared Burgess in possession as England won the turnover close to the Australian line.

Tom Palmer, Youngs and Cueto all had a go but Australia held firm and Tim Payne spilled the ball in a tackle from Barnes, allowing Cooper to clear his lines.

England came back at Australia again.

Ashton almost broke through under the posts but his offload went to ground.

James O'Connor tried to launch a 90-metre counter-attack but his pass drifted forward. England once again cranked up the scrum pressure and Australian tighthead Ma'afu was sin-binned.

Daley, who had just been substituted, returned to the fray as England sent on David Wilson. The scrum buckled again and referee Owens awarded a second penalty try.

O'Connor extended the Wallabies' lead to 24-17 and Cooper sealed Australia's victory.

Man of the match: Helped no doubt by the attention afforded to marking Quade Cooper, Luke Burgess delivered an accomplished performance from the base of the scrum, under some pressure from the England pack.

Moment of the match: The floated long pass and loop in support by Cooper that led to his second try. Great vision and energy.

Villain of the match: Simon Shaw was lucky to get away with a late shoulder charge on Berrick Barnes... but it wasn't quite nasty enough to be real villainy either.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Elsom, Cooper 2
Cons: O'Connor 3
Pens: O'Connor, Cooper

For England:
Tries: Penalty tries 2
Cons: Flood 2
Pen: Flood

Australia: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 James Slipper, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Will Genia, 21 Peter Hynes, 22 Kurtley Beale.

England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 George Chuter, 17 David Wilson, 18 Courtney Lawes, 19 James Haskell, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Jonny Wilkinson, 22 Mathew Tait.

Referee: Nigel Owens

By Dave Morris

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