Player Ratings: England save Eddie's blushes
OPINION: Not many England sides leave the Sydney Cricket Ground victorious, but Courtney Lawes’ 2022 tourists succeeded where Joe Root’s failed thanks to a battling 21-17 series-clinching success.
After being behind for most of the first half, a 40th-minute try from Freddie Steward gave England a slender 10-11 half-time advantage which their error-strewn display probably didn’t deserve.
The Wallabies had earlier claimed the first try after a neat interchange of passes allowed winger Tom Wright to race to the corner. Noah Lolesio kicked a conversion and a penalty for the hosts while Owen Farrell kicked two penalties for Jones’ team.
Following the restart, a further Farrell three-pointer plus his conversion of Marcus Smith’s poacher’s try extended the visitors’ advantage to 11 points before Lolesio added the extras to Folau Fainga’a’s touchdown to leave England with a nervy final 15 minutes.
Paul Smith rates the England players
15. Freddie Steward – 9
His usual outstanding aerial skills earned him the plaudit “King of the air” from David Flatman, but it was a couple of well-timed thrusts into England’s back-line which caught the eye during a first half which he finished with a neat try. The Leicester man also made a try-saving tackle in the closing stages of a fine display.
14. Jack Nowell – 7
Not seen much as an attacking force but the experienced Exeter Chief covered every blade of grass while tirelessly chasing kicks and making cover tackles.
13. Guy Porter – 5.5
Bounced off by Marika Koroibete during the lead-up to Australia’s try and missed five of his 17 tackles in the no.13 channel.
12. Owen Farrell – 6
Dropped out on the full early on and missed two shots at goal but took plenty of good game management options in the second half. Defending alongside Smith the slight Saracens man presents a midfield speedbump rather than a wall – Samu Kerevi exploited this time and again.
11. Tommy Freeman – 8.5
Saw plenty of ball and made impressive long-striding headway which gained his team 73 metres from seven carries. Perhaps should have scored himself before patient England eventually worked Steward in the corner ahead of the break.
10. Marcus Smith – 6.5
Worked hard defensively but missed tackles more frequently than England would have wanted. Reacted quickest to snaffle a loose ball at the rear of the Australian lineout before racing 55 metres to the line.
9. Danny Care – 5.5
Unceremoniously hooked by Jones shortly before the break after a mixed display in which he was unable to conjure much from some scrappy possession.
1. Ellis Genge – 7.5
Won a scrum penalty at the set-piece which followed his long conversation with a touch judge. The Bristol prop carried with real venom to produce a volume of work in which the bouncing off of Korevi was the undoubted highlight.
2. Jamie George – 6
Solid set-piece effort during which England’s lineout looked especially secure. George also found time to make a couple of eye-catching interventions in the loose before giving way ahead of the hour mark.
3. Will Stuart – 7
A deceptively skilful player, Stuart’s deft hands and nimble footwork by his powerful frame. On more than one occasion the Bath prop created space where none seemed to exist with a nicely delayed pass. Solid in the scrum and hard-working in defence.
4. Ollie Chessum – 6
Another who did plenty of the hard graft upon which this series-clinching display was built. Got on Smith’s shoulder to make a useful break midway through the second half before being replaced by Nick Isiekwe.
5. Jonny Hill – 8
Hill is at times too close to the edge as his early off-the-ball scuffle and verbal exchange with Nic White reminded us. However, this spirit also pervades his combative work in the maul, defensively and at the breakdown and he finished well in credit on a day when Maro Itoje was missing.
6. Courtney Lawes – 9
Simply inspirational – England’s skipper won penalties over the ball, turnovers in mauls and plenty of lineout ball in addition to leading the tackle count with 15. This Herculean effort was topped off by the 72nd-minute penalty with which he halted the Wallaby tide at the end of an 18-phase attack.
7. Lewis Ludlam – 6
Made 11 tackles in a hard-working display before giving way to Jack Willis.
8. Billy Vunipola – 7
Well-marked by the Wallabies, the Sarries no.8 made less impact with ball in hand than is often the case. However, he offset this by missing only one of 15 tackles made.
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie – 8
A strong 35-minute shift was topped off by a 76th minute jackal penalty which ended Australia’s last threatening attack.
17. Mako Vunipola – 6.5
In 25 minutes he struggled in a couple of scrums but produced one massive hit on Michael Hooper.
18. Joe Heyes – 6.5
Arrived on the hour mark to make several important tackles.
19. Nick Isiekwe – 8.5
Only played 15 minutes but in that time made a big contribution in the lineout and some good defensive work.
20. Jack Willis – 8
Immediately threatened with ball in hand after replacing Ludlam in the 64th minute. Nearly claimed a late try.
21. Jack Van Portvliet – 8
Thoroughly justified his coach’s decision to bring him on before the break with another excellent effort during which he mixed his game intelligently, kicked accurately and provided razor-sharp service. Why did he start on the bench?
22. Will Joseph – n/a
23. Henry Arundell – 7
Won a high ball which helped England retain possession at a key moment.
By Paul Smith, Rugbypass