In the town they call Brisvegas, Eddie Jones’ gamble almost paid off. England rolled the dice by fielding the kids – some of whom are too young to go to real casinos – and they leveled the series with a first-half maximum.
The second half was less impressive but they held on for a win that should restore confidence to the Red Rose’s fading ranks. That would ease the pressure that had been building on Jones’ shoulders and at least avoid a 3-0 whitewash that would have left his job on the line.
The first 30 minutes were England’s strongest spell since the World Cup. Perfect science. A timely reminder that momentum is mass multiplied by velocity. England roared – although they must start showing their teeth within 80 minutes if they are serious about their World Cup project.
Owen Farrell scored 20 points as England beat Australia in Brisbane on Saturday
Billy Vunipolo scored an early try to give England the perfect start in Brisbane
He was congratulated by the forward team as England continued to dominate the first half
On his first carry of the game, Ellis Genge sent Michael Hooper flying. The Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell dynamic had a new look. Smith took control in the first leg, playing the ball straight to the line, with running opportunities all around him. He launched Billy Vunipola into the tackles, with the ball carriers emphasizing their presentation in the ruck to speed up the phase play.
The local paper couldn’t even spell Jack van Poortvliet’s name in the preview. If until Saturday evening he was unknown on the international stage, now a few more will find out who he is.
The physicality of the coral. The players fell in everything. Wallabies defender Jordan Petaya was the first to go down in the fourth minute. He barely held on after a collision with Tommy Freeman, and the hosts had to dip even further into their back-up threes. England took advantage, peppering them with kicks, causing chaos at the back.
Ellis Genge set the tone for the first half with a stoppage time in the first minute
Five minutes later, England pulled off a special play. Joker up the sleeve. Michael Hooper missed a penalty for hands in the river and Farrell kicked on the line. Mara Itohe grabbed the throw and passed the ball to Vunipole, who was overturned at the first attempt. There was no shortage of spice, but Genge splashed a little more as he slapped Hooper’s chest in delight.
Under pressure, the hosts’ discipline fell. Jack Nowell chased every shot and Courtney Lawes kicked to the breakdown. Napal almost boiled. Genge was lucky to avoid a sanction for forearming Nick White’s throat. Farrell converted two quick-fire penalties before adding a third when Izaya Perese was adjudged for a tackle.
Midway through the first half, the stadium tannoy had to rally its audience to make some noise. There was stunned silence. England was relentless. Sam Underhill followed Sama Kerevi all over the field, smashing the dangerous center before it could run down the Smith channel. It was like the number 10 was playing with private security.
Taniela Tupou did cross the try line late in the first half to give Australia some hope
Samu Kerevi then came through in the second half as Australia threatened a comeback
A desperation tackle by Paisamy prevented Nowell from scoring another goal, but Farrell extended the lead to 19 points after a goal foul. Everything was in English. With a smile on his lips, Vunipolo walked through the amplification line, as if the clock had been turned back a few years.
It was a near-perfect half – surely there was no going back for the Wallabies? – but in the 38th minute, Taniela Tupou converted a penalty in the scrum. Australia kicked a corner and after a couple of powerful shots, Tupou swooped in to score. Then another blow. Itoje was bounced in the tackle by Hunter Paysama and the England talisman did not get up.
The list of wounded was increasing. Parese was injured on one of the first plays of the second half, and Scott Sio joined him in the medical room minutes later. Farrell put England ahead with the first points of the second period, but the situation was on the verge of breaking.
Australia turned the English scrum on their home turf. They were kicking over the line and suddenly the roles were reversed. James O’Connor stepped in as playmaker and sent the gold shirts forward. Tupo lunged at Smith and the white wall of the defense was broken, leaving space for Kerevi to score.
Marcus Smith was adjudged to have deliberately cheated as Australia piled on the pressure
However, England kept their cool and Courtney Lawes led his team to a much-needed victory
If receiving an accusation from Tupou was bad enough, Smith was soon to forget another point. After hitting White’s pass, the number 10 was sent to the bin and Lolesio scored three points. Underhill was the next casualty, injured during the struggle with Caryobet, before Caderyn Neville was taken away on a gurney.
Tom Wright made a big break for the hosts but they couldn’t turn their purple patch into points. The Wallabies missed a touch, threw a shaky line and kicked the ball full.
Danny Kerr added his experience from the bench and England soon found easy relief. Lowes and Lewis Ludlam found a second wind in this business. Guy Porter made a diving save from his own 22 before Farrell sent a crossfield kick past Nowell. Freddie Steward lost just short, but Farrell made seven from seven to put England two points ahead. The gamble paid off.
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