On Saturday England completed an historic 3-0 series win against Australia. The series win, a first one ever for England in Australia, was wrapped up last week but England made it clear they had come come to win all three matches.
The third test was of completely different character to the first 2 tests. In the first test England really had control of the game, grinding out penalties and punishing the Wallabies from the tee for every transgression.
In the second the win was through an incredible defensive performance as the gold shirts flooded forwards, combined with handling errors due to the wet conditions.
The third test by contrast was an wide open game where the teams both made defensive mistakes and also great attacking plays to end at 5 tries to Australia and 4 to England.
15 minutes highlights
After some fairly even early exchanges England went ahead through a Dan Cole (11′) try from close range, enabled by a good offload from Ben Youngs.
Australia responded with 2 tries in 8 minutes. The first came after a passage of play where England thought there had been a knock on. Australia carried on and the replay showed that the ball had been knocked down by an English hand onto the knee of the ball carrier. Foley finished (13′) and added the extras.
The second came from a set of phases that we have seen a number of times during this series. Australia pulled England’s defence in and then released their back into wide open spaces. Haylett-Petty was on the end of the move to finish in the corner (21′) for his first international try. Foley missed the conversion from far out on the right.
The sides swapped panatlies before England hit back to score a fantastic try in the left corner. Watson put a neat kick through, perfectly weighted for Mike Brown to run on to. The bounce was kind and Brown showed great strength and determination to get over the line (30′) when tackled just inside the 5m line.
As the match neared half time England gave away a penalty for offside which Foley slotted to go in at 18-17.
Early in the second half a clearance kick from Ford hit the spider cam wire and bounced down to be regained by England. Play was allowed to continue due to it being a 50-50 ball and England put a great kick down into the Australian 5m area, The resulting linout was missed by Coleman and fell invitingly into the arms of Chris Robshaw who barrelled towards the line. Fantastic scrambled defence held the ball up over the line, but pressure was mounting.
From the 5m scrum England did something almost unheard of in this series. They hooked the ball and then Vunipola picked up from the back of the scrum to drive through 2 tackles and cross for a try (44′). Farrell, for once, missed an easy conversion, but shortly afterwards added another 3 points due to an infringement at the maul.
Australia applied pressure again and ran through similar side to side plays before Hooper got the ball down on the line. Showing just as much strength and determination as Brown in the first half, Hooper was tackled but reached out to just brush the whitewash with the ball (51′). Hooper added the conversion and suddenly the scores were level.
A strong scrum from England resulted in a penalty for deliberate wheeling and Farrell added another 3 points.
The Wallabies competed at the restart and managed to steal the ball, and after a few phases, Matt Toomua made a dummy and break, handing off Billy Vunipola in the process to send Folau over in the corner unapposed (58′). Foley converted.
Soon afterwards Australia gave away a silly penalty. Vardy’s boot knocked the ball out of a ruck when he was on the floor and again Farrell knocked over the penalty. It was another instance of England keeping in touch due to poor discipline and the accuracy of Farrell’s kicking. England just keep the scoreboard ticking over and Australia never managed to build a lead and get them worried.
Further pressure at the breakdown led to Nick Phipps making a ghastly mistake with a pass to clear the ruck and the ball bounced nicely for Brown to make ground on the left. Continued quick ball gave England momentum and things just seemd to be going their way when a poor pass from Care, close to the line bounced off Jamie George’s shin, over the line and he dropped on it for a try (67′).
From the restart England exited well and another infringement gave Farrell a tough chance to put England more than a converted try ahead. He was up to the task, but the points cushion didn’t last long.
From the restart Australia chased brilliantly and forced a penalty in front of the sticks which Foley converted.
Going into the last 3 minutes England were 6 points up and looking to make enough ground for a drop goal attempt when Jamie George got isolated. With Hooper over the ball looking for a turnover penalty it seemed certain they would get a chance to push for the win. Nigel Owens judged that Phipps had come through the ruck to take out the scrum half and the game was won once Farrell knocked the ball over again.
There was just time for the restart so Australia pushed for pride and got over the line in the corner after some lovely play and a forceful cameo from Taqele Naiyaravoro.
But it was not enough and England have done something that hasn’t been done since 1971 – beating the Wallabies 3-0 in Australia.
In the end the difference may have come down to the relative strength of the 2 kickers with Bernard Foley missing 2 conversions and a penalty while Farrell missed just one conversion. It’s wrong to blame a kicker for a result, but it is a real strength that England have; If you give away a penalty away in range of the posts, Farrell will more than likely convert it. Farrell converted 26 of 29 kicks in the series and the Ford Farrell partnership looks to be a fixture for some time to come.