Monday 26 September 2016

England bash Wallabies in breathless encounter

Australia 28 England 39

Mick Cleary

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

England's Marland Yarde crosses over to score a try against Australia. Photo: Dan Peled/AAP
England's Marland Yarde crosses over to score a try against Australia. Photo: Dan Peled/AAP

England delivered on Eddie Jones's exhortation to be assertive and decisive to claim their maiden victory in Brisbane and to open up the possibility of their first series victory in Australia.

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They were bold and aggressive - defiant, too, coming back from conceding two tries in the opening 15 minutes, never losing the faith, always trusting, always believing. There were immense performances all over the field, from James Haskell and Maro Itoje in the pack to the chillingly efficient boot of Owen Farrell, who finished with 24 points. Haskell had his finest game in an England shirt, all heart and soul. Not bad for an ageing codger.

England's Jack Nowell celebrates with teammates after defeating Australia in their rugby union test match in Brisbane. Photo: Dave Hunt/AAP Image via AP
England's Jack Nowell celebrates with teammates after defeating Australia in their rugby union test match in Brisbane. Photo: Dave Hunt/AAP Image via AP

It was breathless in Brisbane, a game full of ebb and flow, incident too, a few flare-ups, a radical coaching call by Jones in - substituting Luther Burrell - after only 29 minutes to firm up a faltering defence, and throughout it all, a raging spirit that will serve England well as they pack their bags and head to Melbourne for the second Test next weekend.

They have still to be beaten under Jones. Played seven, won seven - already a track record in excelsis.

It was a masterstroke to recognise that Burrell needed to be ditched to improve the defensive shape. Most coaches would have faffed about. Jones acted and, in so doing, brought George Ford into play. And the Bath flyhalf expressed himself in typically perceptive fashion with two wonderful bits of play to create tries for Marland Yarde and then Jack Nowell at the death.

It was a tactical coup by Jones. As he is fearless, so are his team becoming so. It is a symbiosis of attitude and cleverness. It was a night of records - the highest points total England have posted against Australia anywhere in the world - and it was a night of vivid impressions.

Australia's Israel Folau makes a run against England's Maru Itoje before scoring a try during the second half. Photo: Jason O'Brien/Reuters
Australia's Israel Folau makes a run against England's Maru Itoje before scoring a try during the second half. Photo: Jason O'Brien/Reuters

England were far from perfect but they were present in the contest, involved throughout in the madcap action that unfolded around them. The spotlight was on them. And they did not shrivel.

There is no such thing as a "gimme" victory in the southern hemisphere, no mitigating circumstances to be pleaded that this was Australia's first game since the World Cup final in October. You have to graft and you have to trust. You have to back yourself and you have to find strength in the company of others. England did just that. Itoje won turnovers. His mates thundered in behind him. The pack grew and grew and Dylan Hartley confirmed his growing status as a leader of note. England had their lucky moments, getting the rub of the refereeing green when an arcing solo try from flyhalf Bernard Foley on the half-hour mark was overturned by the television match official for obstruction. It was generous to England. A third try then would have been deeply wounding.

But England got a break and they put it to full use. Farrell had already knocked over two penalties. Then a third. Three points became six points became nine points. We thought England had been drowning in an Australian tide with the magnificent Israel Folau in his pomp, but they were only waving, ready to take breath. Michael Hooper had run in the first try, then Folau himself scooted over.

The Ford-Burrell substitution made all the difference. Pressure absorbed turned into pressure exerted, England bearing down on two of Australia's finest, Folau and Foley, to send the ball loose, where Jonathan Joseph dabbed it on and followed up to score.

The penalty count against Australia mounted, a sure sign that England were putting on the squeeze. They were ferocious at the breakdown too, and had won six turnovers to Australia's one by the half-time break.

Haskell was prominent throughout but he will surely pore over the tape of his big burst up the field at the start of the second half that paved the way for Yarde's try, Ford rounding off a super sequence with a long pass to the wing. By the 55th minute, with Farrell landing another goal (he struck nine from 10 attempts), England had opened up a 29-13 lead and had put so much pressure on the Wallaby scrum that prop Scott Sio was sent to the bin and England were cocks of the Suncorp.

Yet, and these particular moments will feature in Jones' planning for next week, Australia managed to hit back with two late tries, a second from Hooper and one from centre Tevita-Kuridrani, to cut the lead to seven points and set English nerves jangling. With three minutes remaining Foley opted to go for the posts from a penalty, a declaration that Australia wanted a two-score win and not the draw that a possible converted try would bring.

It was win or bust. And it was bust for Australia as England finished the stronger, with a Danny Care break and a deft kick through from Ford enabling Nowell to chase and touch down. Farrell landed the conversion for good measure from the touchline.

It was exhilarating and deeply impressive. Onwards to Melbourne.

Scorers - Australia: Tries: Hooper 2, Folau, Kuridrani Con: Foley Pens: Foley 2. England: Tries: Joseph, Yarde, Nowell Cons: Farrell 3 Pens: Farrell 6

Australia: Folau; Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Kerevi, Horne (Lealifano 29) ; Foley, Phipps (Frisby 78); Sio (Slipper 66), Moore (Poloto-Nau 57), Holmes (Kepu 58), Arnold (Mumm 48), Simmons (Horwill 25), Fardy (McMahon 68), Hooper, Pocock.

England: Brown; Watson (Nowell 70), Joseph, Burrell (Ford 29), Yarde; Farrell, Youngs (Care 72); M Vunipola (Mullan 66), Hartley (Cowan-Dickie 72), Cole (Hill 65), Itoje, Kruis (Lawes 60), Robshaw, Haskell, B Vunipola (Launchbury 73).

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

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