If the Rugby World Cup is meant to showcase the biggest teams in the biggest games, then England vs Australia was a fixture that surly wouldn’t disappoint.
With England topping their group and Australia finishing second, you think Eddie Jones’s men would be going into the fixture with the upper hand. However, with England yet to face one of world rugby’s “powerhouses”, due to their match against France being cancelled, this would be a massive test.
England were led out by Johnny May despite Owen Farrell once again being named captain as he was making his 50th appearance for England. Henry Slade was once again playing center which allowed Owen Farrell back into his natural position of Fly Half. Mako Vunipola also started his first game since February in the front row. It was great to see Christian Lealiifano playing in such an important game for Australia once again after his recent battle with Leukemia.
Australia kicked off starting the brilliant weekend of rugby. From the off you could see what this meant to both teams with Australia enjoying a bright start to the game with England defiant in their defence. The first scrum of the game came from some great Tuilagi defence causing an Australia knock on.
Australia were playing with a real swagger in the early minutes of the game continuing to run at England who were struggling to get ball in hand. At the ten minute mark England finally had some possession to play with, but much like England, the Aussies defence was well drilled and a great turnover from Australia sent fullback Kurtley Beale on a great run. England had to regroup quickly which drew Billy Vinipola into a high tackle and allowed Australia to get the first points of the fixture through a penalty kick.
England were starting to get in the swing of things now with Watson looking deadly on the right wing while Tom Curry and Courtney Lawes looked strong at the breakdown. But Australia looked up to the test.
Until the 17th minute, when on his 50th cap, Johnny May sent England into the lead. Some great footwork from Watson on the right side sent England forward, with quick hands the ball was transferred quickly to the left and ran over the line by May. Farrell then added the extras to make it 7-3 England.
England kicked back to Australia who eagerly ran back at the men in white looking to take back their lead on the game. Some nice rugby allowed Australia to work the ball to the right side of the pitch where the ball was snatched by Henry Slade and England broke.
Slade powered through the middle of the park with two Australian centres closing him down quickly. Knowing he didn’t have the legs to get over the line, with pure brilliance he kicked the ball forward to a chasing Johnny May who like a bullet train collected and delivered the ball over the line for his second try in the 22nd minute.
Both teams looked to be playing well at the half hour mark with each receiving three points through penalty kicks making the score 17-6. The match carried on with end to end rugby until the half ended with three points from Lealiifano who slotted a penalty from an England collapsed scrum, making the scoreline 17-9 at the break.
Australia needed a quick start to the second half and it came. 42 minutes in, the pace of Marika Koroibete allowed him to charge the ball over the line after some lovely passing from Australia, who looked to come out of the dressing room with a point to prove. After the conversion, Australia were just a point behind England and the game was shaping up for a dramatic end.
However, with the wallabies seemingly bouncing, England immediately responded with an unlikely try for prop Kyle Sinckler. A perfectly timed pass and run sliced through Australia’s defence like a samurai sword, allowing the England man to plant the ball just under the post and the conversion was swiftly taken by Farrell making the score 24-16. Just minutes later England added to their lead with a simple penalty from Farrell, who in good kicking form sent England into a 27–16 lead.
England continued to be on top against the southern hemisphere giants, proving why they went into this tournament as potential winners. Only a miracle would send Australia through to the semi-final and that miracle didn’t come. A further penalty and a converted Anthony Watson try sent England 40–16 into the lead and they were all but through to the semi-final in Yokohoma. Owen Farrell with 100% kick accuracy today.
It was clear that it wasn’t Australia’s night when a Samu Kerevi try was pulled back by referee Jerome Garces and disallowed due to a forward pass. But it was clear that it would’ve only been a consolation for Australia as the game ended 40-16. There was a jubilant roar from the traveling England fans and players, and for the first time in 10 years England were semi-finalists!
Fans will be licking their lips at the decision making and game management on show by England tonight and performances from Slade, May and man of the match Tom Curry.
Yokahoma put the Sake on ice because England are coming to town!
Photo – DIALLO 25 – Creative Commons Licence