RWC 2015: England Fall as Home Nations Soar
By Ryan Moran
- Australia thrash England as points total sends opponents and Wales through to knockout stages.
- Ireland win against Italy to also confirm a place in the knockout stages.
- Scotland lose against South Africa, needing a win against Samoa to stand a chance of qualification.
TWICKENHAM, UK- England become the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout stages as the loss to Australia means Wales and the Wallabies progress from the group of death. Ireland’s win on Sunday also confirmed their place in the next phase of the World Cup with Scotland still in contention.
In the World Cups 24 year tenure, never has the host nation failed to make the knockout phase. Stuart Lancaster’s side went to Twickenham knowing only a win would give them a fighting chance of progressing out of the hardest pool containing the second and third best teams in world rugby with the home side ranked at sixth. Australia’s full strength first team had not played in two months while England had played two, won one and lost to Wales making Saturdays game crucial.
The Wallabies brought their A game with fly half Bernard Foley at the heart of the attacking threat for the men in yellow. Foley scored two first half tries, converting both of them himself while also kicking a penalty to give his side 17 points at half time. Owen Farrell eased the embarrassment with a penalty to go into the changing rooms with the score at 3-17 in favour of Michael Cheika’s side.
The score doesn’t reflect the story of what was a dominant Australian display made look even better by constant flaws both in attack and defence for the hosts. Mike Brown saved his side from an early scare with a last ditch tackle denying Israel Folau an early try. It was only a matter of when and not if Australia could break down their opponents when a gap opened between Joe Launchbury and Tom Youngs which Foley exploited as a wrong footed Brown couldn’t save his side from more danger as the converted try read 10-3 on the scoreline. Youngs followed his outside marker, leaving a gap between himself and Launchbury allowing Foley to score the first try of the game. Foley and Kurtley Beale combined as the yellow shirts outclassed the white shirts with a quick 1-2 pass combination as the fly half added his second try of the night.
A half time team talk inspired a more convincing second half performance as Anthony Watson found a way past a strong Aussie line to give the whites hope as Farrell converted to bring the score to 10-20 as Foley kicked another penalty before the try. 25 minutes remaining for England to make history as the first team to overturn a 14 point deficit was on as Farrell’s penalty took his side within seven points of Cheika’s side.
Rugby union joined the other sports where England normally underperform on the big stage or unfortunate incidents affect the final results when Farrell was sin binned for a dangerous tackle. Sam Burgess lucky not to join the fly half for a worse tackle seconds later. Foley once again the protagonist to kill dreams all over the country as the game started to fall out of the host’s favour as the fly half kicked over a penalty as momentum switched to Australia. Add to that a second penalty and many saw that as the tournament all but over, and it was all over when centre Matt Giteau added a third converted try as the scoreboard read 13-33.
England once again suffered embarrassment on the big stage as a lack of discipline in the early stages of the game were exploited brilliantly by a rampant Australia, fully deserving the win. One point to note was the lack of talk from the Wallaby camp pre-match as personalities were kept inside and poker faces on point to reveal nothing to the press. Their performance spoke a thousand words as Wales await the yellows in Pool A on 10th October at Twickenham.
Wales 23-13 Fiji
Wales reach the quarter finals of the World Cup thanks to England’s loss to Australia as the two sides now start a dog fight for top spot. Their win against Fiji confirmed their place although at times the result did not seem definite with all aware of the Fijian’s threat with the ability of causing an upset.
Warren Gatland’s side started quick causing the whites problems and seven minutes in, the reds got their reward as Gareth Davis dummied his way to the try line converted by Dan Biggar. Fiji fought back with nothing to show for their efforts only for Wales to regain control when Scott Baldwin found a way through to give his side five more points plus two more for Biggar’s conversion. Fiji were down but not out as aggression from the Pacific Islander’s resulted in a try for Vereniki Goneva converted by Ben Volavola from a 60 yard attacking move. Volavola missed two penalty kicks which cost the Fijians but Biggar’s two further penalties confirmed a 23-13 win as Gatland’s side now look to the quarter finals.
Ireland 16-9 Italy
Ireland join Wales in the next phase after beating Italy as their last game against France looks likely to confirm who will top the group. Keith Earls scored a try in the 19th minute converted by Johnny Sexton gave the greens a seven point lead as Sexton and Tommaso Allan penalties had the scores tied at 3-3. Allan soon kicked a second penalty as Joe Schmidt’s side lead 10-6 at the break. Peter O’Mahony denied Josh Furno a try that if converted would have put Italy in the lead. Another Allan penalty meant only one point separated the sides. Sexton opened the deficit with two kicks to secure a 16-9 win.
South Africa 34-16 Scotland
Scotland remain in contention for a last eight place even though their defeat at the hands of the Springboks leaves both sides and Japan in the hunt. A win against Samoa will confirm Vern Cotter’s sides place in the knockout round. A Tommy Seymour try converted by Greg Laidlaw was the only try of the game as Scotland failed to break down a strong South African side determined not to suffer the same fate they did against Japan. Schalk Burger and JP Pietersen scored tries before Seymour touched down after a Duncan Weir interception. Handre Pollard kicked two conversions and three penalties to keep the margin between themselves and the blues of Scotland. Bryan Habana added a late try to add to the already large deficit between the sides.
Laidlaw was sin binned for a foul of Habana, but Scotland’s determination highlighted by Pollard’s drop kick goal instead of an attempt at touching the ball over the white line to keep the distance. Scotland’s fly half did kick two penalties and another penalty kick by Weir only took Scotland to 16 points, 18 short of South Africa’s 34.
England, Wales and Scotland all play on Saturday 10th October against Uruguay, Australia and Samoa respectively.
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