England completed a 3-0 series whitewash in Australia breaking all sorts of records in the process. It was glorious rugby from both sides if riddled with mistakes.
Victory in a pulsating third and final Test in Sydney was achieved despite conceding 40 points. Australia won the try battle 5-4 but still lost, 40-44.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, England looked mentally tired in the wake of their defensive heroics in the 23-7 second Test. There were more missed tackles, the intensity wasn’t quite there, neither was the aggression, and the backing-up was that split second too late.
Australia had a little more about them yet seemed shell-shocked, knowing that England had an unassailable Test lead and had already won the Cook Cup.
Thankfully the George Ford and Owen Farrell axis was working well.
Ford put in some neat half breaks and his exquisite boot kept pinning Australia back. Farrell’s penalty kicking and conversions were almost robotical.
“We made some history,” said captain Dylan Hartley afterwards.
How right he was – it was England’s highest score home or away against Australia and the first 3-0 series win by a touring side in Australia since South Africa in 1971.
The Wallabies led by a point at half-time courtesy of the boot of Bernard Foley, after Dan Cole and Mike Brown had crossed for England, and Foley and Dane Haylett-Petty for the hosts.
Farrell’s boot seals Sydney victory for England who now look forward to Autumn Internationals
In the second period Michael Hooper and Israel Folau tries cancelled out a Billy Vunipola score. But Owen Farrell’s boot kept England in touch and Jamie George’s oddity was a bonus.
A desperately poor pass smacked against his ankles without him getting a finger on it, the ball rebounded over the try line and the hooker gratefully plunged onto it.
As scores go it was bizarre but how you score doesn’t really matters. It still goes down in the record books.
In the end the difference probably came down to the narrow ascendancy of the English pack, on occasion disrupting Aussie scrums and pinching Aussie lineout ball.
Shorn of the tackling machine James Haskell through injury, coach Eddie Jones turned to Teimana Harrison in his only change.
It didn’t work, with the flanker withdrawn after only half an hour in what was described as a tactical switch. One had to feel sorry for Harrison in his first international but he seemed overawed as play passed him by.
The resulting re-shuffle saw Courtney Lawes come on and go into the second row, Maro Itoje moving to blind-side flanker and Chris Robshaw shifting to open-side. The game was tit for tat from the opening stages, with England only putting it out of sight late on.
The tries came fast and furious.
Prop Cole finishing off from short range a move started by front row colleague Mako Vunipola’s barrelling run, before Australia hit back as Folau beat Jack Nowell down the left wing and linked with Matt Toomua to send Foley cruising over.
Haylett-Petty finished off sustained Australian pressure, taking advantage of an over-lap out wide but England hit back as Brown raced on to Anthony Watson’s wonderful chip.
With the score 18-17 at half-time, it was anybody’s game. After the re-start Billy Vunipola rampaged over from a five-metre scrum to put the visitors back into the lead.
However, Australia continued to look dangerous and flanker Hooper, probably the All Gold’s best player throughout the series, stretched over. Then Leicester-bound Toomua burst through in midfield and gave 6ft 5in Wallaby full-back Folau a run to the line.
Australia lead by four points with 20 minutes to go, but then came George’s try, and Farrell’s accurate kicking put the tourists two scores ahead.
Taqele Naiyaravoro had the final word, but England already knew they had won.
Hartley noted: “We have scored 44 points and not played the perfect game yet, so there is still a lot to work on. Australia threw everything at us. We can all be proud of what we have achieved down under. We are very happy with the tour.”
England look forward to Autumn Internationals in 2016
In November the Autumn Internationals return to Twickenham with England playing four huge matches at “The Home of Rugby.”
For more information on our Twickenham Autumn International hospitality packagesplease follow the links.