With one last match the Autumn Internationals ended on Saturday, and what a match of contrasts. For all of Australia’s attacking intent, in the first half, you always got the feeling the Wallabies were in the match because England were not playing as you knew they could and how that theory was proved in after the interval.
Who won the battle of the scrum?
It is fair to say one of the biggest highlights of the build up to the match was the bickering in the press between the two head coaches, with both complaining the opposition infringed on the rules when the two packs went into battle. In reality I feel this was a pretty even exchange, with the biggest moment actually arising from a bad hook by the England captain which cannoned past the legs of his gleeful opposite number.
Did England deserve to win?
Put simply yes. Sure they were fortunate to be in touching distance at half time, thanks to a poor pass from Nick Phipps, which was further compounded by Kepu and gratefully pounced upon by the grateful Joseph. But after the restart England showed why they were unbeaten in over a year with a mental fortitude which has not been seen in a major England men’s team since Sir Clive and the boys lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy
Who was Man of the Match?
It has to be the aforementioned Joseph. Not only did he score two intercept tries but his deft kick into the corner provided Yarde with the try which surely knocked the stuffing out of the Wallabies. An honourable mention has to go to England’s other try scorer, Ben Youngs, who showed once more he is as good as anyone else on his day.
How Good is this England team?
Eddie Jones said after the match his team is not as good as the world cup winning team from 2003 and I have to agree with him but they are close. Reading the Kiwi press this morning one comment jumped out was that England do not have any players who would get into the All Blacks team and even though, as I have mentioned before, you have to take anything written about the New Zealand rugby team in their own papers with a very large pinch of salt, I would take this as a massive compliment to the current England team because their press are not only wrong but scared. Whilst Aaron Smith is undoubtedly the best scrum half in the game at the moment he has been out of form and Ben Youngs is just as good, if not even better than TJ Perenara. Moving outside Ford might not have the explosive skills of Barrett but he is better at managing the game and Owen Farrell is surely the premier goal kicker in the world game at the moment. Both teams have yet to decide on their best midfield partnerships and the players in line are pretty much of a muchness, it is only when you reach the back three that New Zealand are clearly dominant.
In the pack Coles would get my nod over Hartley but the best of the front rowers is again English with Marko Vunipola. Even the back row, usually an area of Kiwi dominance is well balanced with Read, Cane and Vito being matched by Robshaw, Haskell and Billy Vunipola with each team also having impressive back up players. In the second row once more New Zealand are dominant with Retallick and Whitelock the best pairing in world rugby, yet England’s Itoje clearly showed in the summer he has the potential to match them.
So would England have beaten the All Blacks?
Honestly I don’t know. At the moment I think the All Blacks are the better team but not by much and the fact these matches are played at the end of the southern hemisphere season arguably does have an effect on the southern hemisphere teams. But not as big an effect as kicking off a southern hemisphere the week after the Heineken Cup Final!
Finally, Tevita Kurindrani
Of course I wanted an England win, and a convincing one, but after that I was really hoping Kurindrani could have crossed to score the try which would have given him a personal slam by scoring in each of Australia’s Autumn International matches.