England kill Australia's slam dreams
Sat, 02 Nov 2013 16:31
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England killed off any hopes Australia had of a year-end grand slam when they beat the Wallabies 20-13 at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was not pretty, but it had some great moments. It was far from flawless, but it was certainly intriguing.
But most of all, England outscored Australia by two tries to one and came from being 6-13 down at half-time to keep the visitors scoreless in the second half.
It also leaves Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie with just two wins in eight matches, since taking over from Robbie Deans - with those victories coming against a struggling Argentinean team that had recently sacked their coach.
With the wet conditions at Twickenham on Saturday ball-control was always an issue, but the numerous set pieces played into the hands of the more powerful England scrum. As the penalties mounted against them, the Wallabies' heads started to drop.
Add to that a number of breakdown penalties and within the first half-hour referee George Clancy had already issued a warning against the visitors for repeat offences.
However, England had a major issue in the line-outs - where the absence of Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs' poor skills handed plenty of turnovers to the Wallabies.
Owen Farrell's poor goal-kicking further caused problems for a home team that had clearly not played together since the Six Nations in March. For the Tests against Argentina in June they were without about 10 frontline players - all on British and Irish Lions duty.
Initially Australia's out-of-hand kicking was also far superior to that of a home, but after the half-time beak Owen Farrell found his range and it seemed to give him the confidence to also attack the advantage line.
As England's confidence rose, Australia's kicking game deteriorated - allowing the home team to enjoy territorial advantage at a crucial stage in the second half.
Then, when they needed it most, the Wallabies skills started to let them down as well - with a spilled ball late in the half ending a very promising attacking move.
It was a nervy start by England, with Quade Cooper making a statement by launching a cross-field kick inside the first minute.
However, it was England who had the first scoring opportunity, after Israel Folau was isolated and held on in the tackle near his own 22. Owen Farrell made it 3-0.
Australia had a chance to level matters after England were penalised at a ruck, with Quade Cooper making it 3-all after 10 minutes.
When Will Genia went offside at a ruck soon afterwards, Farrell had a chance to restore his team's lead, but he failed to raise the flags from 40 metres out. And he made it two misses in a row in the 15th minute, after England were awarded a penalty after a very powerful scrum.
Farrell made it three misses in a row, when his attempt hit the upright in the 26th minute - again from 40 metres out.
The England No.10 finally broke his run when he slotted a penalty, after Michael Hooper was penalised at the breakdown again.
The Wallabies finally got their danger man, Israel Folau, into the game and after he made some good yards, it required just five or six quick phases before Matt Toomua went over for the game's first try. Cooper's conversion made it 10-6 just after then half-hour mark.
Cooper added a penalty when Billy Twelvetrees went off his feet at a ruck soon afterwards and suddenly the momentum had swung dramatically. The Wallabies held onto the seven-point (13-6) lead to the break.
The Wallaby flyhalf had his first miss early in the second half, as he pushed his penalty attempt across in front of the uprights.
And that signalled a change in momentum towards England, with a breakout that was started by Mike Brown - although there will be complaints that he actually had a foot into touch inside his 22 - and finished with Marland Yarde being tackled into touch metres from the Wallaby line.
From a rickety line-out Will Genia's attempted clearance was charged down and Chris Robshaw pounced to get the home team's opening try. Farrell's conversion levelled it up at 13-all, with half-an-hour to go.
And that was followed by Owen Farrell stepping through a huge gap for his team's second try minutes later - with the TMO and the referee having a couple of looks before deciding the 'obstructive line' by replacement Dylan Hartley was not significant enough to disallow the five-pointer. Farrell's conversion made it 20-13 going into the final quarter.
Quade Cooper missed another shot at goal with just under 15 minutes left on the clock, as Australia struggled to play catch-up - handling errors adding to their owes.
England hung on to the end, as the Wallaby bench failed to make an impact.
Man of the match: Israel Folau looked full of running and showed his skills when the ball was lofted into the air. Quade Cooper played with more freedom and most of his majestic skills were on display, even though he made a few errors in the second half. Michael Hooper was a real menace at the breakdown. Mako Vunipola did plenty of hard years with the ball in hand, Chris Robshaw did momentous work at the breakdown, especially around the fringes where he managed to catch Will Genia in possession. Tom Wood was also very effective in making metres with the ball, while he missed just one tackle and took his share of line-outs. However, our award goes to England fullback Mike Brown - who was involved in much that was good about England, especially in dealing with the high bombs and deep kicks. He also launched a crucial counter that turned the tide for England.
Moment of the match: The Matt Toomua try just on the half-hour mark, which finally saw Israel Folau's attacking skills come to the fore and the momentum shifting dramatically is worth a mention. However the real game killer was Quade Cooper's missed penalty in the 46th minute. This was followed by an even more dramatic shift in momentum - leading to Chris Robshaw try on the 50-minute and the Owen Farrell five-pointer that turned out to be the winning score.
Villain: Ben Alexander will not win many Oscars for his puzzled look every time he was penalised in the scrum, but he was not nearly as bad as England hooker Tom Youngs' shocking skills at throwing the ball into line-outs. Youngs wins our award for his string of shockers.
Tries: Robshaw, Farrell
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 2
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 (captain), 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 (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Christian Leali'ifano, 23 Bernard Foley.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
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