Find out how England reached the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 12 years
Played – 51
England wins – 25
Australia wins – 25
Draws – 1
Did you know?
- Jonny May won his 50th cap and became the first England player to score two tries in a World Cup knockout match since Rory Underwood and Will Carling got braces in the 1995 semi-final against New Zealand.
- Jordan Petaia is the first player born this century to play in a RWC knockout match and the first teenager to be selected in either of the centre positions in a World Cup.
- Courtney Lawes has won his last 11 matches against Australia and England have beaten Australia in their last seven matches, all played under Eddie Jones.
In a nutshell
England are through to their first World Cup semi-final since 2007 with what was, in the end, a comfortable win over Australia.
The Wallabies put plenty of pace and width on the ball, but their game management was questionable. We all love to see attacking rugby, but there is a time to be pragmatic too.
That is exactly the strategy that England followed – and they still outscored Australia four tries to one. Two of those came in three first-half minutes from clinical finisher Jonny May.
The first was from a lineout. Neat interplay between Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson took play into the Australia 22, next Manu Tuilagi made ground and then, with numbers out wide, Farrell fed Tom Curry, who delivered the scoring pass to May. He went over in the corner and Farrell converted from the touchline.
The second try was created by Slade. David Pocock’s pass to Christian Lealiifano was picked off by Slade – Pocock would have been better keeping hold of the ball himself – and the England centre broke clear. With Kerevi gaining ground on him, Slade directed a delightful kick to the left and with May in pursuit there was only going to be one winner in that foot race. The winger went over in the corner again and Farrell converted again.
Any doubts about Jordan Petaia’s ability to play in a match at this level as a teenager had been dispelled within ten minutes as he made metres with his first touch before offloading to Kerevi.
In fact, he looked dangerous every time he had the ball and was arguably the Wallabies’ best player in the first half – stepping around players on the wing, fending off Owen Farrell, linking well with players around him.
Yet the Wallabies made life harder for themselves by trying to run everything, rarely putting boot to ball to clear pressure from their 22. While they spread the ball left and right fast, moves often broke down with a knock-on or turnover (England were definite winners in the battle of the breakdown). And their opportunities became fewer and further between as the game wore on.
The boot of Lealiifano ensured they were well in the contest at half-time with the scores 17-9 – and they got over the whitewash early in the second half. Reece Hodge sent a lovely miss-pass into the hands of Petaia and England’s defence was caught flat-footed when Marika Koroibete burst through on the inside. Daly chased hard but the Wallaby wing had too much gas.
It was a great line from Koroibete and another one quickly followed – from Kyle Sinckler. The England prop burst onto the ball on the 22 and ran in a try virtually unopposed.
Australia’s ‘attack at all costs’ philosophy continued when they were awarded a kickable penalty in the 54th minute and opted to kick for the corner. From that lineout, they got another penalty in front of the posts but rather than kick for an easy three points, they went for a scrum. They made ground and got close through several phases but Sinckler then ripped the ball in contact, England cleared and the threat dissipated.
In contrast, when England were awarded a penalty five metres out after the Wallabies had infringed at a maul and Ben Youngs had dropped the ball over the line, Farrell opted for the posts and extended his team’s lead by another three points.
Farrell did the same less than ten minutes later to take England’s advantage beyond two converted tries. It was smart play – and completely at odds with Australia’s tactics.
And it was those tactics that allowed England to finish with a flourish. Australia tried to launch an attack from their own 22 but Beale’s floated pass wide was picked off by Anthony Watson and the England winger had an easy run-in.
Job done for England as they reach the last four of a World Cup for the first time in a dozen years. Plenty of questions to ponder for Australia and coach Michael Cheika.
When Kyle Sinckler trudged off shortly after the hour mark, the effort he had exerted in the course of that period was evident. He had put in a shift!
The England prop will, of course, be absolutely delighted with the try he scored early in the second half, picking a great line to latch onto Owen Farrell’s long pass and power over from 20-odd metres. Eddie Jones later said he “looked like a runaway rhino” when scoring.
Yet his work in the tight stood out, too – most notably in stemming the Australian tide midway through the second half. As the Wallabies sent runner after runner towards the England line, Sinckler came in as the second tackler on Isi Naisarani and stripped the ball from his grasp. England were able to clear the pressure and from that point on closed out the game to reach the last four.
Related: The making of Kyle Sinckler
England captain Owen Farrell: “Australia made that a brilliant game. They attacked throughout, from minute one to 80. Our boys did well in defence and managed to get some field position off the back of it and we know, when we get some field position, we can be pretty dangerous. We wanted to play the game at our pace, not theirs, and thankfully we did that in the second half.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika: “We went into the game looking to play our style of footy ans we just weren’t clinical enough to finish off opportunities. Sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and wear it.”
England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade (George Ford 61), Manu Tuilagi (Jonathan Joseph 73), Jonny May; Owen Farrell (captain), Ben Youngs (Willi Heinz 73); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler 69), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie 69), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole 64), Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (George Kruis 64), Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Lewis Ludlam 69), Billy Vunipola.
Tries: May 18, 21, Sinckler 46, Watson 76. Cons: Farrell 4. Pens: Farrell 4.
Australia: Kurtley Beale; Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia (James O’Connor 73), Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete; Christian Lealiifano (Matt Toomua 53), Will Genia (Nic White 61); Scott Sio (James Slipper 70), Tolu Latu (Jordan Uelese 66), Allan Alaalatoa (Taniela Tupou 61), Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold (Adam Coleman 66), David Pocock, Michael Hooper (captain), Isi Naisarani (Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 69).
Try: Koroibete 43. Con: Lealiifano. Pens: Lealiifano 3.
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