Thursday 22 August 2019

England flattered by late scoring burst

England 30-6 Australia

England's Courtney Lawes wins a lineout ahead of Ben McCalman Photo: Reuters
England's Courtney Lawes wins a lineout ahead of Ben McCalman Photo: Reuters

Paul Rees

If the scoreboard does not lie, it does not always reveal the whole truth. Three tries in the final eight minutes took England to a record victory over Australia and their fifth in the last 17 months against the team that dumped them out of the last World Cup, but they were holding on for long periods before that. They won through guerrilla warfare, three kicks and a turnover leading to their four tries.

One luxury England did not enjoy in the Stuart Lancaster era was luck, or at least a surfeit of it. Under Eddie Jones, the question of what might have been has not been asked as often. England led 6-0 after the first half, despite spending most of it defending and, one driving maul apart, not threatening Australia's line. The Wallabies, on top up front, should have been ahead but were two men down as well as six points.

England's Danny Care scores his side's fourth try Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
England's Danny Care scores his side's fourth try Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Their captain, Michael Hooper, was sent to the sin-bin by a New Zealand referee for the second week in a row five minutes after being denied a try. The flanker saw yellow after Australia conceded three penalties in five minutes at the breakdown, a time when the Wallabies were smouldering about the score that was taken from them. Hooper scored after England had surrendered possession and Tevita Kuraidrani's kick to the line was hacked on by Marika Koroibete. As the ball went sideways rather than forwards, Hooper fell on it and slid over the line. The referee Ben O'Keeffe reviewed the first part of the move and ruled that Hooper was in front of Kuridrani when the ball was kicked.

He was, but Koroibete, looking as fast as any of England's back three, had overtaken him by the time he reached the ball but as Hooper had kept moving towards the home line, even at a reduced pace, he was offside. Australia's sense of injustice grew just before the interval when Kurtley Beale was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.

England had played the part of snipers, absorbing Australia's pressure with line speed to narrow the attack and slow down possession. Both teams kicked in their own half, more than a nod to the conditions, and if the Wallabies' chase was more effective, England were constantly looking to increase the tempo of the game and get the ball into space rather than contact.

They lost flanker Sam Underhill after 16 minutes to a head injury, but that saw Maro Itoje leave the bench to join Joe Launchbury in the second-row with Courtney Lawes moving to the back-row.

England's Ben Youngs tries to evade Australia's Ben McCalman Photo: Paul Harding/PA Wire
England's Ben Youngs tries to evade Australia's Ben McCalman Photo: Paul Harding/PA Wire

Itoje's impact was immediate: Underhill had only carried the ball twice against Argentina, a figure he equalled within four minutes here, but Itoje's influence was widespread and he thwarted a number of attacks as well as stealing an attacking lineout.

Two Owen Farrell penalties gave England their interval lead. Bernard Foley scuffed a kick from 40 metres and when Australia did get in behind the defence, usually after a turnover or mistake, either their decision-making let them down or, as when Jonathan Joseph thwarted Semu Kerevi, England scrambled back.

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Reece Hodge scored Australia's first points with a penalty eight minutes after the restart but fortune kept breaking through the clouds for Australia. First, Kerevi's tackle-breaking run from his own half would have resulted in a try if Kuridrani had held on to a routine pass. It was not the wet that caused him to drop the ball in England's 22 and as he looked to the heaven, Ben Youngs kicked towards the left-hand touchline.

Beale thought the ball was going into touch and acted as usher only for Elliot Daly to pounce, kick the ball on and score.

Australia reacted with disbelief and, after a Foley penalty, knew that it was not their day when, after Foley's break, Koroibete thwarted Chris Robshaw's tackle to score. The try was reviewed for grounding but snared the replacement hooker supporting the wing over the line in an offside position.

England sealed victory when Danny Care, on for Ben Youngs, first kicked into space for Jonathan Joseph to pick up and slide over and then, in the final minute, chipped into the Australia 22 for Jonny May to pick up and sidestep Ben McMalman. Care had the last word after Australia again lost the ball in midfield and as smash-and-grabs go, this was audacious.

Scorers - England: Daly, Joseph, May, Care tries; Farrell 2 cons, 2 pens. Australia: Hodge pen, Foley pen.

England: A Watson; J May, J Joseph, O Farrell, E Daly;

G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, D Hartley, D Col; J Launchbury, C Lawes; C Robshaw, S Underhill, N Hughes. Replacements: J George, J Marler, H Williams, M Itoje, S Simmonds, D Care, H Slade, S Rokoduguni.

Australia: K Beale; M Koroibete, T Kuridrani, S Kerevi, R Hodge; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, T Polota-Nau, S Kepu,

R Simmons, B Enever, N Hanigan, M Hooper, S McMahon. Replacements: S Moore, T Robertson, A Alaalatoa, M Philip,

B McCalman, L Timani, N Phipps, K Hunt.

Referee: B O'Keeffe (New Zealand).

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