Overhearing the analysis of amateur pundits in the queue for the Guinness Bar yesterday, there were some fairly divided opinions about where England had gone wrong.
Some blamed Danny Cipriani: “He made the wrong decisions – just look at that dropped goal attempt.” Some were mystified by the quality of kicking from hand: “We were sending aimless kicks down the throats of their back three.” Others criticised the referee and the fact that many decisions seemed to go the way of the visitors.
None of these views were far from the truth, but may be symptoms more than the cause. Cipriani looked as though he was trying to force matters because he wasn’t given the quick ball that he needs to set his backline free.
When the Wallabies were in possession, the ball was in and out of rucks quicker than you could say Waltzing Matilda, but England’s possession was ponderous and slow so that by the time the young fly-half received the ball, the opposition defence was neatly aligned and able to shut down any attacks.
It was as if England’s dominance in the forwards was such a given that they didn’t need a plan B. Andrew Sheridan and Al Baxter are going head to head again, so we must be able to destroy their scrum once more.
However, Robbie Deans’ men gained parity at the set piece and were far superior at the breakdown, leaving England flummoxed as to what to do with no alternative gameplan beyond conceding penalties in frustration. Kicking out of hand was dire, but that tactic probably wasn’t rehearsed a great deal as they didn’t think they would need it.
I imagine Brian Smith had equipped England’s backs with an armoury of wily attacking moves that would have dazzled the crowd had the forwards done what they were supposed to do and produce constant quality ball. As it was, they were clueless and directionless, with Cipriani doing his best to get things moving, making two excellent breaks in the process, but ultimately unable to have a real impact.
England were exposed as the young, inexperienced side that they are, lacking leadership and direction. Doubts remain as to whether Steve Borthwick is the right man for the captain’s armband, the second row is clearly a problem area and the back row does not yet function as it needs to in order to catalyse Cipriani’s backs.
Australia were supposed to be the weakest of the big three teams to visit Twickenham this autumn, so it’s only going to get harder for Martin Johnson’s men.
Please have your say as to where the match was won and lost…