England started sluggishly but their forward power and the nerveless kicking of Owen Farrell saw them home despite a spirited comeback
In a pulsating encounter in Brisbane, Australia outscored England four tries to three but 24-points from Owen Farrell in a brilliant kicking display saw England come away with a vital first win in the three-Test Series. After being 29-13 down, the Wallabies fought back to 32-28 with minutes to go before a breakaway try, converted by Jack Nowell, saw England breathe and their vocal supporters celebrate. It’s now seven from seven under Eddie Jones.
Wallabies quick out of the blocks
After 20 minutes England were looking as if they were still in departures in Heathrow. Michael Hooper had popped over the whitewash wide on the right, and Israel Folau had glided through the England defence adroitly after Bernard Foley has timed his pass to perfection. If Foley’s brilliant individual score hadn’t been chalked off, it would have been even worse. Much credit must go to Michael Cheika who is a master tactician, who squeezed England’s lack of width in the wide channels. It’s a shame for the Wallabies they couldn’t maintain their firecracker start.
Maro Itoje’s maturity is frightening
Sometimes you need reminding Maro Itoje is playing only his sixth Test for England. Nearly every intervention in the first half was a positive one, from stealing lineout ball, to contesting at the breakdown, and making hard yards in the tight. He was simply immense in every respect, performing in a way that is beyond his tender years. In a rare event he was not named man of the match, but no one would have blinked had he been given a gong.
Owen Farrell is now in the world-class kicking bracket
In the same vein as Leigh Halfpenny for Wales, Owen Farrell’s accuracy off the tee is such that opposing teams can’t afford to give him chances within range. Eight out of nine successful kicks, or an 80 per cent plus kicking conversion success is becoming the norm. Calls for him to be the Lions No 10 are growing credence by the Test. As Sir Ian McGeechan famously says, Farrell is a ‘Test Match Animal’.
George Ford had a day to forget in Twickenham, with a torrid day kicking, but when thrust into the action, tactically by Eddie Jones, after less than half-an-hour with Luther Burrell leaving the field, he took his chance to seek redemption. With Owen Farrell taking over the kicking duties, Ford was able to play his instinctive game. A long, looping pass for Yarde showcased his technical ability, and he clinched the game showcasing his vision, with a cute kick behind the defence for Nowell to score. Form blip aside, Ford is far too classy to discard, something the ever-shrewd Eddie Jones is well aware of.
Wallabies still lack power in the tight five
Despite Mario Ledesma’s inspired intervention during the World Cup, which turned the Wallabies into a respected scrummaging unit, they were unable to dominate the England pack in the way they’d have wanted to, Scott Sio’s sin-binning a case in point. The famed ‘Pooper’ combination of Pocock and Hooper were unable to exert their usual influence at the breakdown and as a result England won. Simple. How Australia counter that could decide the Series.
Muted crowd at the Suncorp
Maybe because it was the First Test and the Series was not riding on it, but it was a quiet crowd in Brisbane just when the Wallabies needed them to make their patch hostile for the visitors. The PA announcer had to whip up the crowd to try to get them going late on but much credit must go to England for silencing them. Expect things to be very different in Melbourne in a week’s time.
England lose shape at the wrong time
With England in control at 29-13 and Scott Sio yellow-carded, they should have been looking to close out the game, but a second Michael Hooper score, and Tevita Kurdrani burst made it far too nervy for England in the final quarter. Making so many tactical substitutions saw England lose their shape and make it extremely uncomfortable few minutes until Jack Nowell sealed the win.
Australia outran England with 403 metres carried to England’s 296 metres
Australia beat 20 defenders to England’s eight
Australia made 88 tackles to England’s 114
The game’s top ball carrier was Israel Folau with 95 metres, second was Mike Brown with 85 and third Dane Haylett-Petty with 65
The game’s top tackler was James Haskell with 18
Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Rob Horne; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (captain), Greg Holmes, Rory Arnold, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, James Horwill, Dean Mumm, Sean McMahon, Nick Frisby, Christian Lealiifano
Tries: Hooper (2), Folau, Kuridrani
Penalties: Bernard Foley (2)
Cons: Foley (1)
England: 15. Mike Brown; 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Luther Burrell, 11. Marland Yarde; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Chris Robshaw, 7. James Haskell, 8. Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Matt Mullan, 18. Paul Hill, 19. Joe Launchbury, 20. Courtney Lawes, 21. Danny Care, 22. George Ford, 23. Jack Nowell.
Tries: Jonathan Joseph, Marland Yarde, Jack Nowell
Pens: Owen Farrell (6)
Cons: Farrell (3)
Referee: Romain Poite
Man of the match: James Haskell