AAMI Park crowned in Gold and Green awaited this historic 300th Wallabies Test match as they faced the oldest of enemies. History and the pride of two rugby nations was at stake, as Australia set out on the front foot claiming their own kick off. 29,871 packed into the stadium to witness England secure a first ever Series win on Australian soil. Chris Robshaw shouldered much of the blame in the previous set but a Man of the Match performance here sees England win the Cook Cup. Australia will wonder how they couldn’t breach the wall of white and will rue a number of handling errors.
Jamie George Magic Seals Series Win
Nervy Opening Half
Two early penalties at the breakdown against England cost them territory and possession. In turn Aussie indiscipline off the ball at the resulting line out over turned the penalty, Sekope Kepu, allowing Owen Farrell the chance for three points, narrowly missing.
First scrum of the match after six minutes after all the talk in the week following the Brisbane test saw a number of resets, with the turf already suffering under foot. Handbags saw English prop Dan Coles exposed to the chilly night air. Chris Robshaw at this early stage of his 50th was already covered in blood and responsible for a neck grab that sparked the melee. Stephen Moore entered with a shoulder charge on the man on the floor and the penalty was overturned. Difficult handling conditions made for a scrappy opening 15 minutes, with both sides feeling each other out. Referee Craig Joubert had plenty of man management to deal with in the opening quarter.
The first real time spent in Wallabies 22 saw England earn a penalty and go for a lineout on the 5m. Maro Itoje claimed and the ball was mauled over for skipper Hartley to score, on the evening that he becomes the most capped English hooker. Farrell converted and England had put pressure on the hosts kicking for territory. Hooper, releasing some of that pressure, forced a relieving turnover penalty. From the lineout, poor service to the half backs gifted England a scrum. Joubert has to have words with Hartley and Moore about discipline before every scrum, proving how passionate both teams are. First scrum penalty of the night went England’s way just inside their own half.
Kruis got himself isolated from the lineout but the penalty was awarded against the Wallabies as McMahon was driven off his feet by his own man whilst enacting the turnover. Penalty attempt successful from Farrell, 0-10
Australia’s kick off recovery caused England all kinds of problems. Wallabies took their own kick and piled on the pressure with Joubert playing a number of advantages before awarding a penalty that they kicked to touch. There was a blood stoppage for Rory Arnold as the Wallabies looked to fight their way back onto the scoreboard with their own mauling weapon. Mumm replaced him and took the lineout. Captain Stephen Moore burrowed over from the back. Foley converted and made it 7-10.
Indiscipline yet again cost England as they are called offside in Australia’s 22, allowing them to make an easy exit past half way with three minutes left in the half. The Wallabies were now in the ascendency. Billy Vunipola kicked to touch from the back of a scrum with seconds remaining on the clock allowing Australia to opt for the lineout. Continued pressure from the Wallabies came to nothing as England held on to the death forcing a knock on to end the half.
Resolute Defence Sees England Home
England recollected their kick off and George Ford deftly put the Wallabies under pressure from the boot. Increasingly, Ford was being forced onto the boot in the face a ruthless defence. Clearly part of the game but how well advised that kicking tactic is with a reassuring back three for Australia in place remained to be seen. Scrum time collapsed in midfield and caused a rendition of the ubiquitous battles of Swing Low versus Aussie, Aussie. The TMO was called in to action and Foley was punished for blocking Farrell off the ball during the kick chase. The call for that infringement appeared to come from touch judge, Nigel Owens, and Farrell took the three points.
Yet again England’s exit strategy from kick offs was left wanting. The Wallabies, however were unable to convert pressure into points as resolute English defence resulted in Robshaw winning a penalty. The red rose lineout was beginning to crack with a number of losses on their own throw in.
Scrum penalty awarded to Australia just inside the opposition half, they kicked for touch looking to get in front for the first time in this match. Handling errors cost Australia as they failed again to cross over the whitewash. The majority of the match was played in England’s half, yet Michael Chieka’s men couldn’t reflect that onto the scoreboard. The Wallabies were held up over the line as wave after wave of attacks continued. England survived again, only to turn the ball over just outside their 22.
Itoje was penalised for going off his feet at the ruck and the Wallabies, again, went searching for the kill. A proceeding knock on saw Robshaw send the ball down field off the boot to half way.
Another Australian knock on gave England the chance to counter. Fast hands put Lawes through the middle before Brown recycled and then the magic began. An audacious grubber from replacement hooker Jamie George allowed his Saracens team mate Owen Farrell to dot down and convert. 7-20. For the first time tonight Australia’s kick chase was let down with Foleys kick not going the ten. The Wallabies scrum was then driven into the sand of AAMI Park and Farrell opted to kick for goal to wind the clock down. A further three points and the clock ticked over 80mins. The Wallabies knocked on and allowed England to launch the ball into touch and secure a historic Series victory.
In a nervy test match, both sides struggled for fluency in attack and ultimately it was an incredible defensive effort that saw England claim victory. Neither side wanted to give an inch that would condemn their side meaning that the game never really opened up as it did in Brisbane. It was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but Eddie Jones’ England remain undefeated heading up to Sydney for Test Three.