England beat the Wallabies 23-7 in the second game of the Cook Cup series to claim their first series win in Australia.
The Wallabies were on the attack from the start, remarkably managing to gather the ball from the kick-off, but they showed a lack of discipline and committed too many errors. The English team took full advantage.
The turf at Melbourne’s AAMI Park was a talking point in the match. Referee Craig Joubert was forced to reset In the first scrum because the turf was being dug up by the massive forward packs. Tensions sparked and there was plenty of push and shove though no punches were thrown. The initial advantage was given to Australia but Joubert reversed that because Australia persisted with the aggro after he’d called it.
Both first-half tries came off rolling mauls. England crossed first with prop Dylan Hartley scoring his second test try in the 17th. The Wallabies’ only try came from captain Stephen Moore five minutes before half-time.
England’s defence held firm through the second half, despite the Wallabies throwing everything they had into the attack. They had enough ball and opportunity to build a healthy lead but could not capitalise. England had only 29 per cent possession and 26 per cent of the territory through the match but made 200 tackles to thwart the Wallabies’ push to level the series. Under coach Eddie Jones England is clearly a changed team, having won eight games on the trot to take number two spot in the International rankings.
Australia made 12 handling errors and conceded nine penalties to eight, though some of Joubert’s decisions left coach Michael Cheika – and the fans – baffled. Owen Farrell again proved his value to England, kicking three penalty goals and scoring as try in the 75th minute, courtesy of good work by Jamie George, to sink the hopes and hearts of the Wallaby faithful.
Chris Robshaw was named man of the match but Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and James Haskell were just as deserving. The Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper was named best on field for Australia.
After the match Jones was confident his team could sweep the series 3-0: “We came here to win the series 3-0 and that’s what we want to do next Saturday, the boys started talking about it on the field and that’s what we are committed to do.” Cheika’s Wallabies will be desperate to prevent that as they build for their next challenge – the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand in August. – Jesse Mullens
Photo of Chris Robshaw finding space from the England Rugby Twitter feed.