That’s More Like It

International rugby league got a shot in the arm when Australia played its way into the Four Nations final with a hard-fought 36 – 20 win over England at Wembley Stadium last night. The very competitive Poms pushed the Australians for all but the last 10 minutes, and so next weekend’s New Zealand v England clash will decide Australia’s opponent in the final.

The Poms will whinge that a couple of key calls went against them and, to some extent, they have a good case. Briscoe’s “no try” ruling early in the second half was harsh, while players have been sin-binned or sent off for lesser misdemeanours than Williams’ high tackle on Westwood.  In the end, however, England lost a winnable game through failing to take their chances while the Australians punished them where it hurts most, on the scoreboard, for their errors.

There was a lot to like about this game. It was quick thanks to better policing of the play-the-ball; the intensity of the forward clashes resulted in a bit of push and shove midway through the second half; there was plenty of ball movement compared to last weekend’s up-the-middle bash-athon;  both sides scored good team tries with only one of the game’s ten tries coming from a kick; and several individuals (Hall and Tomkins for England, Slater and Thurston for Australia)displayed exceptional individual skills.

England dominated the first fifteen minutes and, had they taken their chances from a couple of clean line-breaks, could have led by about 16 points. They just couldn’t execute the last play that sets top teams apart. When the Australians got a sniff, they made it count. Even the loss of Slater didn’t hold them back. Lewis reprised his early career as a winger and used his latter day strength to score out wide, Boyd slotted into fullback and lurked on the fringes in attack, and Williams came on early to terrorise the defence with his brute power – just ask Heighington. All of a sudden it was 12 – 4 and the Aussies looked in control.

Thankfully the Poms didn’t go into their shell. Right on half-time they chanced their arm and a great Tomkins break and flick pass, followed by a good Reed draw and pass saw Hall in for his second try. So at the break it was 12 – 8 to Australia but with the wind in English sails. This is more like a contest!

Chase conceded an early penalty after the resumption with Inglis scoring in the ensuing set. There was a bit of doubt about Thurston running behind one of his own men before the final pass but even the English commentators called it a fair try resulting from poor reading in defence. They weren’t so charitable a few minutes later when Williams hit Westwood high, and they were positively apoplectic when Briscoe was denied a try for an alleged double movement (without a referral to the video ref) a minute later.

Five minutes later at the other end, the Aussies were clinical with Cronk serving up a beautiful soft, short pass to put Gallen through a gap and over the line. At 24 – 8, Lockyer decided to keep the ball deep with strategic kicking. But, again, the Poms refused to lie down. Reed followed a high kick through, out-jumped Boyd and ran away to score near the posts. England pressed but made too many errors.

When Thurston intercepted near his own line and set off downfield, the writing was on the wall. England scrambled in defence but good ball movement to the right saw Boyd carry three defenders over the line. Heighington got one back off another slick Tomkins flick pass before Lawrence finished the scoring with a stylish catch and pirouette before rolling over the line in a movement not unlike Briscoe’s. The ref went upstairs and a green light left many English supporters ropable.

The final scoreline flattered the Australians a bit although they looked the more likely winners after the first fifteen minutes. They had better structure and adapted well after the loss of Slater, their forwards had the edge over their opponents, Thurston had another good game directing the attack (and included some strong defence), and they got great value from their bench. Individually, Smith racked up another 40 tackles and controlled the rucks; Thaiday was strong in both attack and defence; Williams was all power while Boyd was all class; Cronk roved here, there and everywhere; Thurston’s goal-kicking was a masterclass.

England went close but appears to be one or two top players short. They weren’t helped by injuries among their forwards and need a top class prop. Chase had his moments early but made too many errors and Widdop needs to be in the starting line-up. They were best served by Tomkins (a real talent who would go well in the NRL), Hall (a big, fast and skilful winger), Peacock (ever the old warrior) and Roby (a livewire hooker and tireless tackler). My obsession, Jack Reed, made one glaring error but compensated with a try assist to Hall and scored a good one of his own. Following on from this experience, he should be even better value for the Broncos next year.

I suppose it’s too much to hope that Channel 9 might show the England v New Zealand match next weekend as it promises to be a beauty.

Australia 36 (Tries: Lewis, Williams, Inglis, Gallen, Boyd, Lawrence Goals: Thurston 6/6)
England 20 (Tries: Hall 2, Reed, Heighington Goals: Sinfield 2/4)
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Crowd: 42,344
Votes: 3 – Thurston (Aus), 2 – Tomkins (Eng), 1 – Thaiday (Aus), Honourable Mention – Smith (Aus)

 

 

 

About Ian Hauser

A happily retired ex-teacher with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through who looks for those beautiful moments in sport (and life) that capture the spirit rather than the law of the game. Love reading and good wine. I run my own editing service for aspiring writers. Check me out at writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. Greg Mallory says:

    Good report Ian, Ch 9 don’t appear to be doing anything, Live Fox NZ v England, replay Wales v Australia

  2. Greg Mallory says:

    picked the Australian team v Wales
    1…Boyd 2…Uata 3..Morris 4..Tonga 5..Yow Yeh 6..Thurston 7..Cherry-Evans 8..Galloway 9..Farrar 10.Beau Scott 11..Parker 12..Lewis 13..Gallen 14..Cronk 15..Smith 15..Thaiday 16..Scott

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