England survive Wallabies fightback to level series
MATCH REPORT: England held off a fast-finishing Australia to win the second Test 25-17 in an intriguing match at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Inside centre Owen Farrell kicked six penalties and a conversion as England levelled the three-Test series ahead of next Saturday’s decider in Sydney.
After an abject display in their 28-30 loss in Perth last Saturday, England regrouped and started brilliantly, dominating the Wallabies in every aspect of the early play.
They led 19-0 after 38 minutes and appeared to be heading for an easy win, but a Taniela Tupou try moments before half-time gave the Wallabies a sniff and they hauled themselves back into the match.
But England held steady and were able to clinch a much-needed victory, giving beleaguered coach Eddie Jones some breathing space.
The English started the match brilliantly, their forward runners creating havoc and making easy ground, putting enormous pressure on the Wallabies.
Australia, who suffered a string of injuries in the lead-up to the match, were rocked in the fifth minute when they lost exciting fullback Jordan Petaia when he was knocked out attempting a tackle.
The visitors scored soon after when No.8 Billy Vunipola crashed over from a rolling maul and Farrell converted from the sideline.
They continued to dominate and were rewarded with a string of kickable penalties as the Wallabies struggled to stay in touch, Farrell converting four in a row to make it 19-0 after 32 minutes.
The Wallabies, who desperately needed to get on the board before half-time, finally got the ball inside the English 22 right before the break and made the most of their chance, massive prop Taniela Tupou barging over.
Noah Lolesio converted to give the home side some hope as they reduced the deficit to 19-7 at the break.
The Wallabies had a disastrous start to the second half when Izaia Perese, who came on as a replacement for Petaia, landed awkwardly and was stretchered off with an injured knee.
They then conceded another penalty at the breakdown off the next play and Farrell stretched the lead out to 22-7.
But the Wallabies struck back when inside centre Samu Kerevi crossed following some sustained pressure from the Australian forwards which left the English defence stretched out wide. Lolesio converted to make it 22-14 10 minutes into the second half.
England lost flyhalf Marcus Smith to a yellow card for a deliberate knock down and Lolesio’s subsequent penalty narrowed the gap to 22-17.
The Wallabies continued to batter the English line but the visitors desperately held on, then went eight points clear with Farrell’s sixth penalty following a length of the field breakout sparked by Smith.
The Wallabies pushed hard, but England never looked troubled in the closing stages and held on comfortably.
Man of the match: Flank Rob Leota was a workhorse on defence for the Wallabies and he showed some raw power with ball in hand as well. Samu Kerevi gave the English a few headaches when he ran at them and Taniela Tupou racked up some metres with a couple of strong carries. For England, Billy Vunipola was a powerhouse in open play and he scored his team’s only try of the game. Wing Jack Nowell was a livewire out wide, while Marcus Smith looked dangerous in the first half. However, the award goes to England centre and playmaker Owen Farrell, who made some key decisions on the field and he also contributed 20 points to his team’s total.
Tries: Tupou, Kerevi
Cons: Lolesio 2
Try: B Vunipola
Pens: Farrell 6
Yellow cards: Hunter Paisami (Australia, 22′ – cynical play, deliberate knockdown); Marcus Smith (England, 53′ – cynical play, deliberate knockdown)
Australia: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Rob Leota, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 James Slipper, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Izaia Perese.
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Jack Willis, 22 Danny Care, 23 Henry Arundell.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand); Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)