6 Oct

England Kick Aussie Out Of Cup
by Paul Waite
6 Oct 2007

What a test match! England, written off by everyone, hit the ground running, and blitzed Australia up front to knock them out of the Rugby World cup by 12-10.

In the week all the pundits were all speaking of a comfortable Wallaby win, with most predictions citing a fair margin of 20 points or so. However the stolid English had other ideas, and it’s a timely reminder for All Blacks fans, that a team with its back to the wall is a dangerous beast.

Right from the start England surprised. They came out and held onto the ball, running it up at the Aussie defence, and backing it with some nice cleanouts and turnovers at the ruck. With some territorial advantage, they knocked Australia onto the back foot, and they remained that way for the whole test.

The chief weapon for England was the scrum. It devastated the Wallaby unit, and visibly sucked all the energy out of the legs of Matt Dunning & Co. in general play. After some initial dodgy calls by the referee Alain Rolland, who failed to notice Dunning folding up like a soft toy against the giant Sheridan, he eventually saw through it, and started penalising the Australians. After that they had nowhere to hide and were in serious trouble at every scrum.

That great rugby thinker, Australian No.7 Phil Waugh, is probably regretting his words earlier in the week, when he let slip the fact that the Wallaby front row, which has been mashed to a pulp regularly in the past couple of seasons, was thinking of itself as potentially the best in the World. He might like to reflect on the old adage "don’t try to run before you can walk".

Aside from the scrum, England also blew Australia off the ball at ruck time, on both sides of the ball. Australia couldn’t get any kind of momentum recycling the ball, and had to rely on ‘miracle’ breaks by their more creative backs such as Barnes, Giteau, Latham, and Tuquiri. Even so they remained dangerous to the end, and always threatened to make that telling break which would result in a match-wining try.

But England ground it out well, with their aging, but therefore experienced pack using all their nouse to wind down the clock and deny Australia the time on the ball they desperately needed to force points onto the board. The nearest they came was a long-distance penalty which Mortlock (with this lemon of a World Cup ball) duly missed with about 7 minutes left.

So, well done England for surprising everyone, and also for keeping the Northern Hemisphere candles burning for yet another week. At least for NH fans it is now guaranteed not to be an all-Southern Hemisphere semi-final.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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