An historic win for England brought them their first ever Test Series win in Australia. The final scoreline of 7 – 23 really doesn’t reflect the way the match was on a knife edge for nearly all of the second half.  At 7-16 Australia seemed to

Scores and major incidents

1st Half

11:30 – A penalty to Australia and a further penalty for a Chris Robshaw neck roll resulted in a big scuffle. The penalty was reversed for Moore inflaming the situation with a shoulder charge into the ruck.
18:29 – Hartley Try (0 – 7)- a maul from a lineout brings England control and as the maul slides to one side Hartley, at the back, crosses for a score. Converted by Farrell.
30:13 – Farrell Penalty (0 – 10) – Penalty given for not supporting own weight when Australia were pressuring for a turnover.
33:59 – Moore Try (7 – 10) – An almost identical try to the first one, but this time Australia the attackers and Stephen more the scorer. Converted by Foley

2nd Half

50:25 – Farrell Penalty (7 – 13) – Touch Judge Nigel Owens flags as a shoulder battle between Farrell and Foley during a kick chase.  His suspicion that Farrell went in too hard is reversed by Joubert who penalises Foley for obstruction.
53:52 – After sustained pressure from Australia within England’s 22, Robshaw gets over the ball and wins a penalty
56:06 – Hooper, now captain, elects to kick for the corner instead of taking a 3 pointer about 40 metres out.
62:05 – More sustained pressure sees Sam Carter stopped over the line, with Dan Cole battling to hold the ball up and make it a 5m scrum where it looked almost certain to be a try.
63:48 – Another penalty to Australia in the middle just outside England’s 22 and Hooper again elects to go to touch and try for the 5-points.
74:25 – Farrell Try (7 – 23) – A great break from Courtney Lawes and quick ball leads to a beautiful grubber kick from Jamie George which is pounced on by Farrell for a try.  Farrell adds the conversion.
78: – Farrell Penalty (7 – 16) – England win a penalty on Australia’s scrum and Farrell slots it over from 42 metres.

Strategy

The teams chose different strategies. England, perhaps more used to playing in wet weather, chose to kick to the corners, asking Australia to run it back at them and trusting their defence and the slippery ball would result in handling errors.

Australia on the other hand seemed to stick to a dry weather game plan.  Looking for the width that was so effective in the first 20 minutes of the 1st Test they made too many handling errors, in part due to the weather but just as much due to the pressure they were under from a dogged England defence

England also continued the strategy of taking points whenever they were on offer, whereas Australia declined kickable penalties twice in the second half that would have brought them within 3 points.

Scrums

The scrums were badly affected by the quality of the pitch, such that in many cases Joubert declined to give a penalty for a collapsed scrum. When we had a stable scrum England generally showed dominance, until the replacements made a difference.  England won more penalties and free-kicks form the scrum than Australia and will be looking to continue this superiority in Sydney.

Defence

Dogged, heroic defence, discipline and handling errors were the key to the match in the end. England soaked up so much pressure in the second half that on another day you might have expected the Wallabies to score 3 or 4 tries.  England’s tackle count by the end of the match was 200 compared to Australia’s 58 which show just how much pressure they’d been under.

Joubert gave them a warning for repeated infringements in the first half, and yet when Itoje gave away a penalty in the 64th minute he didn’t go to his pocket because England had, by then, gone 24 minutes since last giving away a penalty.

With 71% possession and 74% territory Australia would usually come away several scores so to keep them scoreless in the second half was an incredible achievement.

Replacements

Eddie Jones’ use of replacements was restrained, choosing to leave most of the starting players on until they’d emptied the tank completely. As Haskell limped from the pitch on 71 minutes he looked like he’d played 2 matches in a row, with 22 tackles under his belt. But the way they were defending it’s hard to argue Jones should have introduced the replacements earlier.

Australia used their replacements earlier with most of the forward changes coming between 53 and 60 minutes.  It gave them a period of extra energy and zip, but England soaked it up and byt he time they introduced their own replacements they had that energy, with 2 of the replacements, Lawes and George, key to the last try.

Conclusion

Australia had the ball more (71% possession), they played more rugby, they kicked less (26 to 38), they made more clean breaks (10 to 2), more metres (514 to 248) and beat more defenders (31 to 9) yet somehow couldn’t get over the line.

England’s showed superior tactics in kicking and soaking up the pressure, waiting for the handling errors to come.  I wouldn’t want to see them play too many test matches like that as it could easily go the other way but it was a hard fought, and well earned victory.

Test wins in Australia are not easy to come by and England certainly did it the hard way.  It’s a great achievement, better even than the Grand Slam.

The Match