Wallabies’ mistakes let England home at Twickenham

An error-strewn second forty minutes saw Australia throw away a half-time lead in a disappointing start to their spring tour in London. The Wallabies scored the only try of the first half, and looked to be the more dangerous side, as they made the advantage of recent games tell before the interval. This was their tenth outing together since the start of the Lions series in June whereas it was the inexperienced England XV’s first fixture of the northern hemisphere season. But an undisciplined second half performance, compounded by a couple of contentious refereeing decisions, changed the tide of the game and gave England a come-from-behind victory.

Roared on by a crowd of over 80,000 England started brightly. They gained an ascendancy at the scrum which they didn’t relinquish all afternoon, but errant goal-kicking from the usually reliable Owen Farrell meant the dominance in field position was not reflected on the scoreboard. Farrell missed three of five shots at the posts in the first half, whereas Wallabies’ five-eighth Quade Cooper was three form three in the same period, his two penalties sandwiching the conversion of the only try of the half. And has so often been the case in recent months, the try came off the back of great work by Israel Folau. Collecting a long pass from Cooper after half an hour the full-back outflanked the defensive line and sprinted deep into England territory. When he was pulled down by a desperate cover tackle the Wallabies were able to recycle the ball and, after a couple of thrusts by the forwards, Matt Toomua burst over from close range.

Shots at goal from scrum penalties aside, England did not threaten in the first half, looking like a side unfamiliar with each other and unsure of their combinations. With Folau looking a threat whenever he got into space, and Kuridrani carrying his form from Dunedin into the game and making good ground in midfield, coach Ewen McKenzie would have been optimistic his side could go on with the job after the break. It was not to be, however.

The Wallabies can blame nobody but themselves for a series of handling errors, giving away hard-earned possession, and poor kicking led to their undoing: aimless clearances gave England ball with time and space, and the more possession they got the more cohesion their game developed; and when Will Genia’s attempted box-kick on his own line was charged down by Mako Vunipola, England captain Chris Robshaw pounced on the loose ball and touched down, with the resultant conversion by Farrell bringing the scores level. Another mistake led to the field position from which the scoring chance was created, though replays suggest it was the error of the linesman’s judgement and not, as appeared at first glance, Cooper’s boot. England full-back Mike Brown was man of the match, repeatedly fielding Australian kicks and running the ball back, beating the tackles of kick-chasers to put his team on the front foot. On this occasion, however, his foot appeared to be on the touchline as he scooped Cooper’s penalty back into play from overhead and launched the counter-attack which led to his skipper’s try.

Just before the hour mark England again went deep into Australian territory. After 12 phases it seemed it was simply the pressure telling when Farrell strolled through a gap in the defensive line to put the ball down under the posts. Once again, however, television footage suggested fate was on the home team’s side, replacement hooker Dylan Hartley’s presence in the line on a decoy run appearing to have blocked any attempt Stephen Moore could have made to tackle Farrell. The video referee allowed the try to stand, and Farrell converted himself for a 20-13 scoreline which was not added to by either side. Cooper missed both attempts at goal after the interval, and strong English defence meant a scoreless second half for the Wallabies.

Australia were unlucky with the officials’ calls in the run-up to both England tries, but that should not gloss over their own culpability in failing to capitalise on their first-half lead. The build-up to England’s first try aside, both Cooper and replacement scrum-half Nic White failed to find touch with penalties – a heinous crime in modern rugby when territory is so important and a free shot at an attacking line-out cannot be squandered. Having looked to be nearly back to his best in the last couple of games Will Genia had an afternoon he will want to forget, making basic handling errors to go with the charged-down clearance that gifted Robshaw his try. The Wallabies’ recovery is still a work in progress, but there were enough signs in the first half to suggest they can still get plenty out of their spring tour. It was always fanciful to believe this team could match the exploits of the fabled 1984 Mark Ella-inspired team and win all five matches, coach McKenzie and new skipper Ben Mowan can at least now focus on next weekend’s match in Turin without the distracting talk of a potential grand slam that surrounded this fixture.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Great report Tim. What are your thoughts on Mowan’s elevation to the captaincy? Is he the right man long term?

  2. andy_frame says

    Good summation Tim. I must admit, I was pretty mad yesterday afternoon after those refereeing ‘errors’, but in the hard light of the following day, I agree that we continue to be our own worst enemy. Which, when it all gets down to it, is what I’m actually mad about. As the song says – The road is long….*sigh*

  3. Tim Ladhams says

    I must admit I thought Horwill was a bit unlucky Luke – he always fronts up and leads from the front, and didn’t think his form had been that poor. No issues with Mowan, but I don’t think McKenzie should chop and change too often – Genia had been getting g right back to near his best but lost the VC role and had his worst game for a while.

    The road is long, Andy, but these days it’s about four year World Cup cycles and the Wallabies don’t need to be peaking now. They have to get the scrummaging right – the backs are looking good, so they just need to get more ball.

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