NEWS

England complete dream year with victory over Australia

December 5, 2016

England have completed a dream year on the rugby field by extending their run of victories to 14 as they defeated Australia 37-21 in the final Old Mutual Autumn International of 2016.

It means Eddie Jones has now seen his side win all 13 games this year, with four of them coming against his native Australia, the side who knocked England out of last year's Rugby World Cup.

The build-up to the match had been a tasty one, with plenty of words between Jones and his opposite number Michael Chieka. While England hoped to follow up their three victories down under in the summer, Chieka had his mind set on revenge for that whitewash and a re-run of last year's 33-13 hammering.

Australia threatened to overwhelm the hosts early on and Michael Foley missed an easy penalty for them before Bernard Foley Sefanaia Naivalu opened the scoring with a try in the seventh minute. The wallabies may have had two more early tries but for infringements to chalk off both scores.

There was some relief for England when Jonathan Joseph pounced on an error to score a try, but Australia remained the stronger upfront and two Foley penalties gave them a deserved 16-13 lead.

If England had been poor early on, they were superb after the break. Joseph kicked through for Marland Yarde to touch down and Ben Young took a quick tap penalty, threw an outrageous dummy to bamboozle Phipps and then crossed the line to put England 30-16 up. Youngs was now emerging as the man-of-the match, his outstanding performance another sign of the way Jones has improved individual players.

Australia were not finished yet, however, as Sekope Kepu, whose fumble had led to Joseph's try, managed a score of his own.

That might have sparked a fightback against a less dynamic side than this England team, but instead, the home team held firm, Dane Haylett-Petty was yellow carded for a tackle off the ball and David Pocock's ambitious late pass was intercepted by Joseph, who ran through for his second try.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for England's first home game in the 2017 RBS Six Nations against France on February 4th may be particularly pleased with the result, not just because it exorcised the ghosts of the World Cup, but because it showed how the side could cope when not playing well.

This attribute was the one that pleased Jones most. He remarked: "We were terrible in the first half. I don't think we could have tried to play worse than we did. We rebounded very well to get back into the game and, conversely, in the first 20 minutes of the second half we were outstanding.

"It really shows where the side is going. The real test is when you are not at your best and have not got your best players."

Jones also said he would happily see his England team take on New Zealand "tomorrow", even though he said this team is not as good as Clive Woodward's 2003 Rugby World Cup winners. That talk may be cheap, as the next fixture against the All Blacks is some way off, but the confidence his team will carry into 2017 is sure to give the rest of the northern hemisphere sleepless nights.

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