Best of the Weekend: England battle to victory over Australia

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England ride their luck against Australia

England welcomed Australia to Twickenham on Saturday, in one of the most intense and historic rivalries in rugby, and thanks to a much improved second half performance, and a bit of luck for both of their tries, England recorded a 20-13 victory over the visitors. After a bright start from England, Australia grew into the game, and thanks to unusually inconsistent kicking from Owen Farrell, took a 13-6 lead into the interval. The break seemed to do England a world of good however, and the home side bounced back with tries from captain Chris Robshaw and Farrell, with fortune rewarding England’s powerful second half showing. Robshaw’s try came as a result of field position won by the boot and intelligent counter-attacking of Mike Brown, but replays showed the fullback to have put a foot out of touch earlier in the play, whilst a Dylan Hartley obstruction in the process of Farrell’s try was judged by referee George Clancy to have not been significant enough to prevent the try.

England may have gotten their fair share of luck in the win, but Stuart Lancaster should be pleased that his side were able to take the scalp of Australia, especially when his team were far from their best, and gives them a solid platform to build on as they prepare to taken on Argentina next week. New Zealand and Japan were the only other international sides in action this weekend, and the All Blacks comfortably beat the Cherry Blossoms 54-6, marking the first time New Zealand have ever played Japan outside of the World Cup.

Gloucester and Wasps set the scoreboard alight

Both Gloucester and London Wasps could be accused of under-achieving so far this season, but that didn’t prevent both sides from putting on a real show at Kingsholm on Saturday, as Wasps escaped the West Country with a 32-30 win. Winger Christian Wade looked back to his electric best after an ordinary start to the season, scoring two tries, and will have given Lancaster a few selection headaches in the run up to the Argentina game. Thanks to Rob Cook’s late try, Gloucester did manage to pick up two bonus points from the game, but alarm bells must now be ringing for the Cherry and Whites, who have just two wins from their opening seven games.

Harlequins 23-16 victory over Leicester at Welford Road was arguably the other pick of the round, and the result saw Quins leapfrog Leicester in the table. Bath and Exeter both continued their impressive early season form, recording away victories over Worcester and Sale respectively, and the loss for Worcester sees them well and truly adrift at the bottom of the table, currently nine points behind London Irish in 11th position. Two upsets were potentially on the card Sunday, with London Irish hosting Northampton, and Newcastle visiting Allianz Park to take on Saracens, but neither side managed to take advantage of the international period and upset the form book, as Irish fell to a 19-14 defeat to Saints, and Saracens cantered to a 40-3 win against Newcastle. James O’Connor made his debut for London Irish at fullback in their game, and although he couldn’t quite swing the result in their favour, he looked dangerous whenever he got his hands on the ball, and looks to be a big asset for Irish over the remainder of the season.

Munster, Glasgow improve positions at the top

Munster’s 12-6 dogfight of a victory over the Ospreys was enough to ensure they remained top of the pile after Round 7, but Glasgow made sure that they lost no ground on the league leaders, as they recorded a 19-12 win over Connacht at the Sportsground. The most impressive performance of the weekend fell to the Scarlets however, who, without the likes of Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland in their squad, saw off the challenge of Ulster at Parc y Scarlets, as they adapted more proficiently to the poor weather conditions, and emerged with a 17-9 victory.

Elsewhere, Edinburgh recorded their second PRO12 victory in as many weeks, narrowly overcoming a stubborn Zebre side, 25-23, at Murrayfield, whilst Newport pushed an under-strength Leinster side hard, but still fell to a 23-19 loss. New arrival Zane Kirchner also made an immediate impact in his first start for the province, setting up Noel Reid for Leinster’s decisive try, and already looks like an inspired signing. Cardiff Blues wrapped up the weekend’s action with a 17-13 victory over Treviso at Arms Park, but had to come from behind to secure the victory, and in doing so, narrowly avoided home losses to both Italian sides this season.

No doubt about Try of the Week for those who watched the England Legends take on their Australian counterparts on Friday night. Former England hooker Steve Thompson put on perhaps the best impersonation of Jason Robinson you will ever see, as he burst down the sideline for 60 metres, threw two outrageous dummies, and scored a truly sensational try.

Ugo Monye is the Hero of the Week for his fantastic defensive effort against Matt Smith in the Quins victory over Leicester. The winger held up Smith on the try line, and then proceeded to drive him back, showing great strength and defensive technique, and prevented a try which could have easily swung momentum in the game back to Leicester.

There were incidents of questionable refereeing up and down the country, but none that truly warrant the Villain of the Week accolade. However, the line judge that missed Brown’s foot being in touch is the closest to the (dis)honour I could see this week, as that missed call was the catalyst for the momentum swing that saw England take control of the game.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

9 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: England battle to victory over Australia

  1. Jesus. A marginally bad call gets the lines the villain of the week prize? Are we not going a bit OTT over this. Toomi essentially missed touch if he’d not gone for such lenght Brown would not have got near it. If the Aussie chase had been better the subsequent lineout would have been on half way not close to their line. If the Aussie’s had not made a hash of the lineout, Genia would have cleared his lines.

    I’m in no way excusing England’s rusty performance but both “controversial” decisions, Brown in touch and Hartley’s block, were marginal as to expect England’s home advantage to count. I’ve seen more blatant obstructions than that. For once Hartley showed some guile which is pleasing given his usual blatant penalties.

  2. Well said Benjit.

    I was a mistake from the Touch judge, but a better kick would have nailed an Aussie lineout, irrespective of what Brown could do.

    I though Hero of the Week would be the medic who brought on the Oxygen for Steve Thompson after his mammoth effort :-)

    Or possibly Tony Spreadbury who allowed, in a perfect example of “sympathetic” refereeing, the ball carrier at least a quadruple movement to score the Aussie try in the same game.

  3. Australia had possession twice between the TJ’s foul-up and Robshaw scoring the try. I think Hartley is more deserving of the VotW award frankly, he is sailing very close to the wind lately and I think it won’t be long before his various indiscretions cost England a game (as they *may* have cost Saints the AP title last season). I don’t think even Hartley deserves the VotW to be honest, it was slightly cynical and very definitely got the rub of the green, but we deserved to be higher on the scoreboard from the penalties so it kind of comes out in the wash ultimately.

  4. I wonder, do touch judges feel empowered at all in what they do? How often have we all been at matches and seen the exact same thing happen? There are loads of occasions when forward passes, offsides, etc. could be called by the AR but never seem to be. Is there some sort of pecking order that we don’t see – they only get involved when it’s clear the ref wants them involved?

    As for the incident – I think he’s the villain because now it’s being talked about. I think Eng would have won anyway – collective villains of the week for me are Aus who looked terrified to run the ball in the second half, thus robbing everyone of a chance to see a potentially thrilling and topsy turvy second half.

    1. That’s an excellent question Brighty. I’ve often wondered why they aren’t used more, particularly in the context of checking the side of the scrum opposite the ref. They are often in a perfect position to spot binding problems, collapses, etc and yet are never used

      More generally, does Mr Clancy understand the concept of off-side? Certainly he didn’t seem to think it was worth enforcing

  5. Have to agree with binning this refereeing nonsense. Neither call was blatantly wrong – both were marginal. I bet if you have a close up of the touch judge, he was looking at the ball not Browns feet. Mistake made but I’ve seen worse. Hartley was marginal. I thought the try was going to be overruled when I was watching, but Hartley didn’t step into the player or change course. Seen them given and seen them not given. Whether the aussies should have had 15 players on the pitch after repeated warnings in the first half was a moot point, but then Clancy seemed to adopt a consistent approach to be lenient – Hartley and Yarde are examples of this. He was therefore consistent, which is what all of us supporters cry out for all of the time. So leave the reffing alone and concentrate on the rugby (or lack thereof!)

    Thought hero of the week should be NZ for showing how to beat Japan without a full strength team.

  6. Um I would put the whining Aussies as the villains of the week as they were constantly in the ear of the ref when things wern’t going their way.

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