England 40-16 Australia: Talking points from England's statement win
As two historic rivals tussled in Oita, it was clear that we are now at the business end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Both the northern and southern hemisphere were represented as England got the better of Australia, 40-16, to book a semifinal berth.
Eddie Jones’ England were favored to take this tie, considering both nations’ group stage performance. Yet, it was Australia that started the game with ferocity, troubling England from the get-go.
The Wallabies opened the scoring in the 16th minute as Christian Lealifano scored from a penalty.
Conceding that penalty, however, lit a spark for England who started playing the slick offensive game that they are known for.
Four minutes later, England overturned the deficit via a try scored by Jonny May.
Jones’ side was camped in Australia’s 22. They recycled position and stretched the Wallabies, who lacked the pace to close down on England’s lightning-quick passing. Tom Curry found May with a simple handoff on the left and the latter did what he does best – score.
May, who earned his 50th England cap today, put his name on the scoresheet again, five minutes later.
Henry Slade intercepted a fluffed pass from David Pocock and the English outside centre darted into space. He then produced a moment of sheer genius as he kicked the ball forward, while under pressure from Australia’s defense, to find a rushing May, who added the finishing touches.
Michael Cheika’s men did not give up, however. They ground their way out into the reckoning, scoring two more penalties in the half. A cynical foul in the 30th minute, however, allowed England to add three more points. The two sides went into half-time with the score, 17-9 in England’s favor.
As soon as the second half started, Australia got into the groove. They got right back in the game via a Marika Koirobete try with the wing embarking on a dazzling solo run.
The Wallabies’ joy was cut short as Kyle Sinckler scored another try for England in the 46th minute. Owen Farrell found the prop with a great offload and Sinckler went past the line for a simple try.
If Australia had any hopes for a comeback, they were dashed by Sinckler’s try. The Wallabies looked worn out and both mentally and physically exhausted from England’s quickfire offense.
Cheika’ side, despite domination possession, was left in tatters by a sharp English offense. Cheika himself was outcoached and outclassed by Jones, who took advantage of the wealth of attacking talent in his team.
England cuts through Australia with surgical precision
Let me list down some team stats for this game.
Australia dominated possession, 64% to England’s 36%.
The Wallabies, naturally, also had more passes and territory. Yet, they were unable to capitalize on this.
England, who adopted a counter-attacking strategy, were deadly with the ball in their hand, however little they got of it.
The end result was England scoring four tries which put the game past a tired and hapless set of Wallabies. A big chunk of the credit should also go to Farrell, who gave a perfect kicking performance as he scored all his penalties and try conversions.
To elucidate the difference in quality, picture this.
The Wallabies took the first 40 minutes to score nine points (off three penalties). In that same duration, England scored two tries in a five-minute interval.
Possession without efficient play-calling is a death blow. Today’s result is testament to that.
England’s dominance in the scrummage and defensive end
One of the major reasons England outlasted Australia was by giving a superlative performance in set piece situations.
England won eight of nine scrums in the game, helping them disrupt the Wallabies’ rhythm in possession. Australia, meanwhile, won three out of four scrums.
Jones’ side did very well to gain possession from Australia by forcing scrums. This helped them avert pressure on the defensive end. Curry was immense for England in this area of the game and he was duly named the Player of the Match.
England also were better on the lineout front than Australia, winning eight of nine lineouts.
The most damning stat for Cheika, however, is the 18 turnovers his side conceded. These clearly blunted any threat that the Wallabies posed.
The Wallabies were devoid of quality at this World Cup
Australia might be two-time World Cup winners but this edition’s side was clearly not up to the mark.
While Cheika clearly deserves the major chunk of the blame for not being tactically flexible, one also has to accept the talent gap between Australia and England.
The Australians fought on to take the game to England but the latter knew from the get go that they were not in trouble.
May’s double between the 16th and 21st minute made it evident that England could bend Australia at will. This was proven later as well when Sinckler scored a try just three minutes after Australia had cut the deficit to a single point.
It’s not just this game which pointed to a lack of quality in the Wallabies’ camp. Slim victories over the likes of Tonga and Georgia made it abundantly clear, to be honest.
On a positive note, the Aussies can be proud of the fight they brought into the game. A trait that can be the building block for a world-beating side in the future.
Cover image credits: NBC Sports
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