England edges Australia in 2nd test, levels 3-match series
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Ellis Genge set the tone when he bumped off Australia skipper Michael Hooper’s attempted tackle in the first minute and Owen Farrell kicked 20 points as England held on for a 25-17 win Saturday to ensure the three-test series will be decided next weekend.
Stunned by a 30-28 loss in Perth last week, ending its eight-test winning streak against Australia, England opened the second test in Brisbane with an intensity that rattled the home team and raced to a 19-0 lead.
The Australians rallied twice around halftime, scoring a try on either side of break to close the gap to five points in a physically absorbing match, but England withstood the pressure and regained the momentum in the last 15 minutes to level the series 1-1.
Farrell kicked a conversion and six penalties and was a standout in midfield in a player-of-the-match performance that had England coach Eddie Jones describing him as the ultimate competitor.
Jones said his prop, Genge, was annoyed by some of the commentary following England’s loss in the series opener and clearly wanted to “make a mark on the game,” and veteran No. 8 Billy Vunipola had the kind of look in his eyes before kickoff that inspired confidence in the squad.
“We’re a young inexperienced team, we’ve got players from 13 different clubs and we need training time together,” Jones said, explaining the improvement in his team’s performance in the second test. “We got more on the same page this week. Next week, we’ll be on the same page even more.”
Vunipola opened the scoring with a try in the 5th minute after England won a close-range lineout and set up a driving maul.
Farrell converted from wide on the left and added four penalty goals in quick time, regularly taking the points as England’s forwards dominated the breakdown, possession and territory and forced the Wallabies into errors.
Australia’s woes were compounded when Izaia Perese, who replaced a concussed Jordan Petaia, was yellow carded in the 22nd minute after the TMO ruled that he made a deliberate knock-on to shut down a scoring opportunity for England. It left the Wallabies a player down for 10 minutes.
But the Australians rebounded in the last five minutes of the half, finally scoring after taking an attacking lineout from a penalty. Loosehead prop Angus Bell went close to the tryline before his fellow frontrower Taniela Tupou burrowed over to make it 19-7 at halftime.
Another Farrell penalty gave England a 22-7 lead three minutes into the second half before Australia hit back again with powerful center Samu Kerevi scoring in the 48th following an 11-phase attack and a penalty from Noah Lolesio — after his opposing flyhalf Marcus Smith was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on — to make it 22-17.
The Wallabies created more attacking opportunities but were let down by poor finishing and a lack of execution.
After repelling Australia’s attack, England grabbed crucial points when Farrell extended the cushion to eight with about 15 minutes remaining.
Jones said he was impressed with England’s passion and drive in the opening half-hour, but “I was more pleased with the last 15 minutes, mate.”
“The way we fought. For a young team, under that pressure at Suncorp, the referee starting to even the (penalty) count up. It’s a difficult situation,” he added. “To play with that level of maturity, that level of toughness, is a really good for the future.”
Injuries will test the depth of both squads. The Wallabies lost Petaia to concussion in the third minute, Perese and lock Caderyn Neville with knee injuries in the second half and replacement prop Scott Sio with a shoulder problem. England lost influential forwards Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill to head injuries.
Jones said Itoje had been ruled out of the next match and Underhill was undergoing the head injury assessment.
The result ended Australia’s 10-test winning streak at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, but extended Jones’ unbeaten run in seven tests at the venue, a stretch which includes his time as head coach of the Wallabies.
Hooper said after England’s fast, physical starts to the first two tests, Australia needed to focus on getting on top early next Saturday to have any chance of clinching the series.
“The collisions and ill-discipline — it was one-way traffic there,” he said of the first 30 minutes in Brisbane. “In terms of the second half, we came out knowing what we needed to do. We were excited by the fact when we got down to their end we were scoring points.
“Some pleasing things. We just need to execute a bit better.” ___
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