ENGLAND WENT careering towards the corner and flew round it against Australia. I have seen many false dawns before, mostly from England, but they rarely come when a side has beaten the world’s second best team, Australia by a whopping 17 points.
And the truth is it could have been much more as England spurned at least three cracking chances to score more tries.
(Watch the Highlights at http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/9177377.stm)
In the past England have based such stunning victories as this on their powerful scrum but against Australia there were only seven scrums and five of them resulted in either free kicks or penalties.
They showed some of the most adventurous play ever seen at Twickenham.
Many in the 80,000 crowd had to rub their eyes when Ben Youngs attacked from behind his own line at the start of the second half. He dummied Quade Cooper and found Courtney Lawes deep in his 22. Lawes drew two defenders and sent Chris Ashton on an 85-metre run to the line. Stunning!
England once again (following the game in Perth) targeted Quade Cooper and ran everyone at him. He came out second best.
In Youngs they have also found a world-class player.
Youngs was the clear man of the match but significantly six other England players had their best performances under Martin Johnson: Tom Palmer, Mark Cueto, Chris Ashton, Tom Croft, Dylan Hartley and Shontayne Hape. If a coach can get that sort of performance he will always be leading a winning side.
The tempo Youngs brings to the match, allied with the pace of players like Ashton and Foden makes it work for England.
Johnson has also found an inspirational captain in Lewis Moody, who did so much to help galvanise his team.
And in Toby Flood a goalkicker who can now move into Jonny Wilkinson’s boots.
James O’Connor missed kick after kick for the Wallabies while Flood slotted all nine of his for 25 points, a record for the fixture.
The only alarm bells for England came in the way Kurtley Beale strolled to his two tries. Beale is one of the most talented players of his generation so perhaps they shouldn’t be too hard on them.
England still can’t match New Zealand and it remains to be seen whether they can produce a different performance to beat South Africa but make no mistake the corner has been officially turned!
The match also proved that referees can no longer officiate in matches on their own. Craig Joubert had little or no idea what was going on at the scrum and he should be embarrassed with a Test match in which the first five scrums were not competitions.
Australia clearly had no interest in an arm wrestle with England – tough! The referee should have forced them to have one or awarded penalties and yellow cards. But Joubert’s performance, which followed Jonathan Kaplan’s shocker in the Australia v Leicester game prove they need help on the field. One referee for set pieces and another of the rest has to be the way forward as not even the top referees can cope any more.
This threat to the game and it is definitely a threat must be stamped out immediately otherwise why not pick back row forward as props so they can maraud around the field.
England (16) 35
Tries: Ashton 2 Cons: Flood 2 Pens: Flood 7
Australia (6) 18
Tries: Beale 2 Cons: O’Connor Pens: O’Connor 2
England: Foden; Ashton, Tindall (Armitage 62), Hape, Cueto; Flood (Hodgson 78), Youngs (Care 54), Sheridan (Wilson 67), Hartley (Thompson 70), Cole, Lawes, Palmer (Shaw 71), Croft, Moody, Easter (Fourie 78).
Australia: Beale; O’Connor, Ashley-Cooper, Giteau (Barnes 59), Mitchell, Cooper, Genia (Burgess 48), Robinson (Slipper 55), Moore, Alexander, Chisholm (Mumm 57), Sharpe, Elsom, Pocock, McCalman (Brown 58).