Jonathan Joseph scored a brace as England beat Australia 37-21 at Twickenham and finished the 2016 season unbeaten. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Grand Slam champions. 3-0 victors in Australia. A four-from-four record in the Autumn Series. England have done it all – bar beating the All Blacks – in an unbeaten 2016 season.
On Saturday, England extended their winning run to 14 matches. Under Eddie Jones, they have won 13 consecutive Tests and four matches in a row against Michael Cheika's Australia.
The scoreline at Twickenham on Saturday, however, doesn't do justice to the England effort. They went into the match against the Wallabies without a host of frontline forwards. They were trailing 10-0 after 15 minutes and 16-13 at half-time.
The Wallabies dominated the collisions and breakdowns in the first quarter. David Pocock and Michael Hooper appeared to be in great form at the rucks, and the visitors enjoyed all the territory in the early stages.
There was a further surprise when the Wallabies shoved England off their own ball at the scrum, and then shifted it wide for Sefa Naivalu to finish. At that point, the momentum was with the Wallabies.
It was all England could do to keep the scoring to a minimum during that period. Twice the visitors were held up after crossing the tryline. Bernard Foley didn't help the Wallabies' cause when he missed a kick from right in front.
No 8 Nathan Hughes and the England forwards started to come into their own at the contact point and scrumhalf Ben Youngs began to launch contestable kick after contestable kick. Owen Farrell's cool goal-kicking allowed the hosts to narrow the deficit to four points.
After 29 minutes, the Wallabies were caught behind the gainline and Farrell toed the loose ball ahead. Joseph raced through and received a favourable bounce. Suddenly England were 13-10 up.
While the Wallabies finished the half with two penalty goals, it was clear that the momentum had swung in the hosts' favour. England began the second half with a bang, and again the forwards and Joseph were at the heart of a scoring success.
England took the ball through the phases, and then shifted it to the outside centre channel. Joseph showed incredible skill in the face of an advancing Wallabies defence to push through a grubber for Marland Yarde to chase. The winger beat Israel Folau to the bouncing ball to propel England into the lead.
Youngs controlled the game brilliantly from the No 9 position. He showcased his quick decision-making and running skills after England received a penalty deep in Wallabies territory after 66 minutes. Youngs quick tapped, sold opposite number Nick Phipps an outrageous dummy, and dotted down for a fine try.
Dayne Haylett-Petty was yellow-carded in the 72nd minute, a sanction that put paid to the visitors' hopes of a last-gasp win. Fittingly, it was the England defence that had the final say.
Australia shifted the ball wide in a last-ditch attempt to stretch England. Joseph read the play beautifully, intercepting a loose pass by Pocock and racing through for his second try of the afternoon.
England – Tries: Jonathan Joseph (2), Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs. Conversions: Owen Farrell (3), George Ford. Penalties: Farrell (3).
Wallabies – Try: Sefa Naivalu, Sekope Kepu. Conversion: Bernard Foley. Penalties: Foley (3).
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Henry Slade.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 David Pocock, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Henry Speight.
Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images