Just under 82,000 people made their way to Twickenham to watch England take on Australia, a team they’d bettered in their last 4 meetings, 3 of which were Down Under in 2016. There was a time when it was a momentous thing to see England beat a Southern Hemisphere team. But, there’s now an expectation, in the Autumn in particular, that England will be victorious, with the only real query being a team they haven’t faced for a few years, the All Blacks.
Eddie Jones made a few changes, with Owen Farrell and Joe Launchbury in the starting XV and Anthony Watson starting in place of Mike Brown at Fullback, with Jonny May returning on the wing. England needed a much better performance than the one they put in against Argentina to ensure a second win.
The England performance was a far more cohesive one, in spite of Sam Underhill departing early with a Head Knock, to be replaced by Maro Itoje, who went into the 2nd row while Courtney Lawes went to Flanker. The Saints man is in the form of his life and put in 19 tackles, with just 1 missed, ahead of Itoje with 16 and 2 missed.
As a cricket tragic I’m a big fan of statistics and the most important one of the afternoon here was the score England 30 Australia 6, with England scoring 4 tries to none for Australia. That stat however doesn’t really tell the full story of the match as is so often the case.
Australia worked very hard for very little return, running 431 metres to England’s 351 and having 56% possession to England’s 43% – I’m not sure where the missing 1% went! Another ket stat involved the 2 yellow cards shown to Australia. The first to see yellow was the captain Michael Hooper, he was deemed to be offside twice as England attacked the Australian line, this gave Hooper a stat I’m sure he’d rather not have as he became the most yellow-carded player in Test rugby, with this being his 8th yellow.
Hooper is a brilliant player who’s very busy on a rugby pitch, his involvement probably means there’s an inevitability when it comes to cards. That came on 33 minutes and Owen Farrell kicked England’s second penalty to take the score to 6 nil.
Disaster struck for Australia 6 minutes later when Kurtley Beale was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on, the resulting yellow seemed very harsh to me as the incident happened on the halfway line, hardly in the red zone. This is another area where there’s huge inconsistency. Unfortunately for the Head Coach Michael Cheika the cameras were on him and caught him apparently calling, someone, a F***ing Cheat, that may well have ramifications for him. The teams went in at half time with England leading by their 2 penalties.
England failed to capitalise on their numerical advantag and in fact with Beale still of the field it was Australia who scored a penalty to close the gap to 3 points. They went on the attack and looked to be in the clear but as they had so many times in this game, the wet and no doubt slippery ball was dropped. Elliot Daly chased the ball, kicking it forward, the ball went tantalisingly (if you’re Australian) to the line, before he raced forwards to touch the ball down.
My seat was in the Upper Tier and from where I was sitting the ball looked in, but rightly the referee went to the TMO and the more replays shown, the more the ball looked out. It was a pleasant surprise when the try was given, but given it was, the officials were clearly happy the ball stayed in the field of play.
Dylan Hartley had been substituted on 57 minutes, with the captaincy duties going to Owen Farrell, he was to use his influence as Bernard Foley looked to have scored, Farrell had immediately lifted his arms at the positioning of Stephen Moore as Foley went over the line. We had many replays and this time the decision was No Try due to obstruction by Moore.
To add insult to injury for Australia Jonathan Joseph scored 2 minutes later for the home team, Danny Care had entered the fray and he put in a clever box kick, which was pounced on by Joesph, the conversion stretched the score to England 20 Australia 6.
England weren’t finished and Jonny May scored after the ball game out of the scrum, Danny Care’s introduction had certainly invigorated England and he scored himself on the final stroke of the game. The final score was a very satisfying England 30 Australia 6, but, until this England team faces the No 1 team the All Blacks we won’t know their true measure. Next week brings Samoa, an game that will be a physical encounter, one that England should and hopefully will win.