England stages fightback to beat Australia 20-13
LONDON (AP) — Australia’s latest bid for a Grand Slam of the home unions collapsed at the first hurdle on Saturday, letting slip a halftime lead to lose 20-13 to injury-hit England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Captain Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell scored tries in an eight-minute spell before the hour mark for the English, who recovered from a 13-6 deficit at the break to begin the autumn series in encouraging fashion and maintain their progress under coach Stuart Lancaster.
These remain dark times for the Australians, who were kept scoreless after the break. This was an eighth defeat in 11 tests in a year that already contains a series defeat to the British and Irish Lions and a third-place finish in the Rugby Championship where their only wins came against Argentina.
“It’s another learning process for us,” said No. 8 Ben Mowen, who was captain after James Horwill was stripped of the armband this week. “We’ll take a lot of good things out of today, especially from the first half . and try and fix the things that didn’t go so well in the second.”
The Wallabies were somewhat fortunate to go in to halftime ahead, though. Their scrum was destroyed in the first half, with the front row conceding three early penalties, and their backs struggled to create many openings. England failed to capitalize only because Farrell was successful with just two of five kicks at goal in the opening 29 minutes.
The last 10 minutes of the half saw Australia finally come alive and center Matt Toomua crashed through a weak tackle by Billy Twelvetrees for a 31st-minute try before Quade Cooper converted and added a second penalty.
England showed spirit and more zip in the second half, however, and ran out deserving winners of the Cook Cup to boost confidence ahead of matches against Argentina and New Zealand. Farrell finished with a 15-point haul that included two conversions.
“We addressed our intensity and physicality, and came out all guns blazing after halftime,” said Robshaw, who scored his first try for England.
The hosts weren’t lacking for inspiration. England’s World Cup-winning squad from 2003 were all there, circling the pitch at halftime as the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson paraded the Webb Ellis Cup won in Sydney 10 years ago.
It was a reminder to the crowd of the good old days in English rugby. And they might just be returning under Lancaster, who has guided his team to eight wins in its last nine games stretching back to a record victory over the All Blacks last autumn.
“We were very aware of (the 2003 squad) being in the crowd and we wanted to do them proud,” Lancaster said. “They inspire the players.
“It will mean a lot to the (current) players when they sit back and think they won with those guys watching.”
Still, England — robbed of five Lions tourists through injury — needed a couple of slices of fortune to spark its fightback.
After England winger Marland Yarde was denied in the left corner by a try-saving tackle from Adam Ashley-Cooper, Australia scrumhalf Will Genia’s clearance following the resulting lineout was charged down by prop Mako Vunipola.
The ball ricocheted across the face of the tryline to Robshaw, who gathered three meters out and plunged over in the 50th.
Farrell’s 58th-minute try also had a hint of luck about it. He found a gaping hole in the defensive line to cross the line untouched and dot down under the posts but the try was referred to the video referee, who was asked to check whether Australia hooker Stephen Moore was blocked by Dylan Hartley in the build-up. The decision went with the hosts, who pushed 20-13 ahead.
Australia still had more than 20 minutes to recover but Cooper missed a penalty and then failed to find touch from a penalty in the closing stages. Pressure in the final five minutes was seen out by impressive England defense.
Australia lost Scott Fardy to a neck injury just before Robshaw’s try but the flanker was up and walking about in the dressing room after the match, coach Ewen McKenzie confirmed.
Meanwhile, 1984 remains the Wallabies’ only Grand Slam year. The next stop on their five-match tour is Italy next Saturday.