England overcame Australia 20-13 in their first autumn Test, despite producing a lacklustre display and finishing with a score that somewhat flattered them.
Despite controlling the scrum, England's ball-handling let them down, and Owen Farrell missed three penalties in the first half.
|Tries: Robshaw, Farrel||Try: Toomua|
|Conversions: Farrell (2)||Conversion: Cooper|
|Penalties: Farrell (2)||Penalties: Cooper (2)|
However, they overcame these frailties and the win will give England some useful momentum as the 2015 World Cup draws ever closer.
Joel Tomkins and Billy Twelvetrees were asked to hold the game in the centre for the home side, and they were instrumental in setting up the penalty that gave England the lead early on.
This led to a run where England were in control of possession and the scrum, constantly threatening but never really delivering on their promise. Not helped by Farrell's inaccuracy, England let the visitors back in the game.
Australia scored 10 unanswered points and the game looked to be getting away from England. The Wallabies looked much more dangerous, and mistakes of their own were the only thing that kept England in the hunt.
The momentum shifted when the hosts drew level. Stuart Lancaster brought on Dylan Hartley, Ben Youngs and Joe Marler, which gave the home side a spark that was previously missing.
A quick line-out brought a try—despite Mike Brown seeming to have his foot in touch—and Farrell made it 20-13 with the conversion. From there it seemed to go England's way, with the Wallabies' Quade Cooper missing a chance to get his side back in the Test.
This scrappy play continued as the game drew to a close, and England will have been incredibly relieved to come away with the win.
Going into the game, England's weakness looked to be at the back. It was always going to be a lot to ask of Twelvetrees to keep Australia contained, and at certain times he seemed to struggle. However, England always had the superior strength and eventually it brought them victory.
that was the worst international game of rugby I have seen, England were poor but Australia were awful— Tom Sparshott (@TSparshott) November 2, 2013
They remain third in the world rankings above Australia, which will be important for morale.
The next Test is against Argentina, in which Lancaster's side should again triumph. Following this, they will face New Zealand in a whole new challenge.
If they are to make a serious challenge at the World Cup—which they are co-hosting—England will need a good performance against the All Blacks.
They need to cut down on the mistakes and errors in handling, but there is definitely something to build on here. England are looking to produce quick balls and make solid attacks with their carriers, which is very encouraging.
In addition, they are technically skilled and able to generate strong forward power in the loose, which is vital against a side as dangerous as New Zealand.