All the heat was on the Wallabies leading into this Test, with most assuming the English team just had to show up to beat them. Apparently the English team thought the same. Would the Australians’ butter-out-on-the-bench-all-day-strength pack hold out against England’s traditional forte? Would their less-than-impressive try-scoring record hold out? If the English strip wasn’t bad enough, the anthems sealed the deal: this wasn’t looking rosy, or cerise as it may be, for the Poms.
Scoring got under way for the English in the first three minutes. Toby Flood converted the first points from an accidental offside penalty by the visitors.
The Wallabies went on the attack, but the English defence held. That forced Berrick Barnes to hit a nice drop goal. Coming without the usual posturing and getting into the pocket, he just slotted it and got back to business.
The scrum wobbles — though it could just have easily been the random penalty generator — made an appearance with the English earning a couple of penalties. The second was in a good position and Flood added another 3, putting the home team into the lead 6-3.
The Wallabies then got back on the attack, pushing hard on the try-line with multiple phases being held out. Eventually Ben Alexander got over, but realising he wasn’t going to get it down he tried to recycle the pill but it was too late. The ref went upstairs and received a ‘no try’ ruling. The Wallabies’ next scrum was solid and earned a penalty giving Berrick an easy kick to level the scores at 6-all.
The English took a turn to attack and after a moment of refereeing blindness, missing the English being clearly offside, the Wallabies did some great counter-rucking. The English were awarded another penalty right in front and Flood took the points.
Something extraordinary then happened: the Wallabies scored a try. From a English box kick, Berrick took the ball and sent it to Beale who passed to Phipps, who beat the first line of defence before getting a good ball out to Nick Cummins who ran 20-odd metres untouched and put the ball down. It was a well worked try. Berrick was unable to add the conversion.
Keeping the see-saw going, the English decided to avoid kicking a penalty and instead went for a run. This provided dividends with Tuilagi getting over for a try of his own. Flood was also unable to convert, leaving the at score at 14-11 to the home team.
That remained the score a minute or so later as the teams hit the sheds for oranges. There had been some great signs at the breakdown, and our scrum was looking better.
The second half got started and a few minutes later the Wallabies had levelled the score through another Barnes penalty goal. Then another penalty gave the Wallabies the lead, 17-14. Another penalty was given away by English prop Marler who was hooked not long after.
The final points of the game came in the 53rd minute with another Barnes penalty goal. The scorer would not be bothered for the remaining 25 minutes. The final score was 20-14 to the visitors.
Though there were no more points, there was plenty of willing rugby played. The home team turned down enough penalty kicks to have won the game, preferring instead to run. Perhaps that will be a decision they will be ruing this morning.
It was a much better performance by the Wallabies too, and I think it was more than just the return of the talismanic Sitaleki Timani, though his pushing in the scrum has to have made a difference. Their enthusiasm at the breakdown and in defence was the most pleasing change. Hopefully it’s not just a one-off. With Italy up next week, let’s hope it become obvious the scrum just had an off night against the French.
At least we aren’t poor losers, hey Robshaw?
Australia 20 (Try: Cummins Con: Barnes 0/1 Pen: Barnes 3/4 Drop: Barnes 1/1) def England 14 (Try: Tuilagi Con: Flood 0/1 Pen: Flood 3/3)