Power-packed England too good for Australia
November 13, 2010
England captain Lewis Moody poses with the Cook Cup following his side's memorable victory
© Getty Images
England delivered one of their finest displays in recent memory to secure an impressive 35-18 victory over Australia in a scintillating clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
Two tries from winger Chris Ashton and a record 25-point haul from fly-half Toby Flood carried the hosts to a deserved victory that secured the Cook Cup and also equalled their biggest-ever winning margin over the Wallabies. Scrum-half Ben Youngs set the tone for an exhilarating display with a Man of the Match performance but his eye-catching contribution was over-shadowed by an outstanding team effort laced with crowd-pleasing ambition.
A brace of tries from fullback Kurtley Beale and the boot of winger James O'Connor kept the visitors in touch but they were left to rue a yellow card to centre Matt Giteau and a host of missed opportunities in the first-half. But even at full strength they had little answer to England's indefatigable defence that shackled their rivals and starved their talented backline of possession.
England showed willingness to run at the Wallabies early on with forwards and backs taking it in turns to pepper the visitors but a penalty against No.8 Nick Easter for holding on handed O'Connor the chance to open the scores but his effort was short and wide. And when centre Shontayne Hape was penalised shortly after - again for holding on - O'Connor was guilty of missing the target for a second time.
The hosts continued to show ambition with ball in hand while their defence stood firm before claiming a vital turnover on their own 22. Scrum-half Youngs then orchestrated a superb breakaway featuring Flood and flanker Lewis Moody in support and their endeavour was eventually rewarded with a penalty that Flood nailed to give his side the lead.
The eagerly-anticipated first scrum of the game came on the quarter hour but was an anticlimax with an early engagement by England incurring the wrath of the referee. With the England defence shackling the much-vaunted Wallabies, the visitors' fly-half Quade Cooper attempted to stretch the home side while a chip and chase fromB eale had No.8 Nick Easter scrambling. The Wallabies looked to build on that momentum by kicking to the corner for the lineout but they lacked the precision to work an opening.
The next scrum went England's way with Australia accused of collapsing and within a couple of phases they had an attacking lineout deep inside the Wallabies' 22. A strong run from Hape had the visitors on the back foot before wing Mark Cueto and flanker Tom Croft combined well to create the opening for Ashton who crashed over for the first try of the game. Flood's conversion cemented England's lead and hammered home their dominance.
O'Connor's off-day with the boot continued a couple of minutes later with his latest effort hitting the woodwork while some ill-mannered booing rang around the stadium. The phoney scrum war continued on the half hour with the penalty going against England's Dan Cole this time. O'Connor finally opened his account - fourth time of asking. But his score was immediately cancelled out by Flood after England's muscle made its mark again in midfield.
England's desire to put pace on the ball brought yet more reward as the half drew to a close. Youngs set the tone with a snipe from deep inside his own half and pressure on a scrambling O'Connor resulted in another England penalty and a yellow card for Giteau, whose desperate attempt to stem the tide drew a fitting sanction. But England's indiscipline cost them before the break with O'Connor clawing three points back for his side with the last kick of the half.
England wasted no time in stepping up their efforts following the re-start and early pressure handed Flood a chance to extend his side's lead with the long range proving no problem for the in-form fly-half.
But there was no panic from Australia as a tackle-sapping drive took them into England's 22 where scrum-half Will Genia opted to take a quick tap penalty in the hope of securing a five-pointer. But he was thwarted by some more excellent defence before England struck again with one of the great individual tries at Twickenham.
Turnover ball was pounced on by Youngs who stepped Cooper on his own line before feeding Lawes who in turn found Ashton. The Saints speedster then powered up the line before cutting inside, leaving Drew Mitchell grasping at air, before touching down under the posts. The roars were still ringing around the stadium as Flood added the extras.
England were soon pressing for more but a great intercept from Wallabies lock Mark Chisholm relieved the pressure, although the second row could not find his support. But the Wallabies were never going to roll over and a trademark chip and chase from Beale carved England open in midfield and he won the race to touch the ball down for the try that was converted by O'Connor.
Injury robbed England of the industrious Youngs with Danny Care entering the fray but the Leicester No.9's departure did little to diminish their spirit of adventure. Cueto led the charge with a strong run that led to Flood's next penalty to restore a 16-point advantage.
England's high-tempo offence began to take its toll as the game entered the final quarter with replacement No.9 Luke Burgess exploiting their fatigue by bursting down the short side where he found prop James Slipper in support. The ball was then worked wide through Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper with Beale the beneficiary with a try in the corner. O'Connor could only pull his conversion attempt wide but the Wallabies were sniffing a comeback.
Stung into action, Cueto cut through the Wallabies all too easily and as expected Ashton loomed up on his shoulder at pace but he was denied a hat-trick by a great last-ditch tackle by Mitchell. And in their attempts to snuff out the danger, the Wallabies infringed once more and it was no surprise to see England opt for a shot at the posts that Flood slotted with ease.
Needing tries to turn the game around the Wallabies immediately gave the ball some air but O'Connor ran out of room as he closed in on the corner in the latest example of England's lung-busting effort in defence.
Cueto was soon slicing through the Wallabies' defence again and the resulting scrum once again failed to fire with another early engagement from the visitors allowing Care to dart close to the line. He was denied but the almost inevitable penalty came that allowed Flood to eclipse Jonny Wilkinson's 22-point haul against the Wallabies in 2002 and set the seal on a famous victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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