England show killer Instinct to take First Test
England show killer instinct to overwhelm Australia in first Test in Brisbane
Long before the historic deed was done, England were celebrating – repeatedly – at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday and their frenzied response to every mini-triumph illustrated the fervent intensity which overwhelmed Australia.
Eddie Jones’ national team are not here to win hearts and minds, they are here to win a Test series, and at AAMI Park in Melbourne five days from now, they have a glorious opportunity to do just that. They will approach that monumental task with the same aggressive approach that brought them a first victory over the Wallabies in Queensland’s state capital in the opening match.
Once he had finished the goal-kicking masterclass which yielded 24 points, from nine successful shots out of the 10 he attempted, Owen Farrell declared that England had been ‘relentless’. That is just what they were; doing a passable impersonation of his club, Saracens, in the manner of their victory. They pounded the hosts into submission and even the way they savoured every penalty or turnover or dominant scrum told a tale. This was a snarling English success.
Having delivered another international performance worthy of a decorated veteran, rookie lock Maro Itoje – so often the scourge of Australia at breakdown and lineout – said: ‘It’s important to celebrate the small victories and when you do that you make each other feel good. The hunger increases.’
On that basis, England were famished. Time and again, forwards in white celebrated in the faces of their opponents; exuding menace and hostility. There were several flashpoints during the game as English euphoria drew a response, or the niggly torrent of shoves and elbows and taunts lured the Wallabies up front to engage in scuffles and stand-offs. They were met by united, bristling defiance.
This was the embodiment of the ‘Bodyline’ strategy that Jones had demanded of his team – on top of the game-long base of murderous defensive intent which under-pinned this classic victory in a country where they had beaten the hosts just three times before. Frankly, they were horribly abrasive. Quite right too.
Two years ago, England went to New Zealand and won plaudits for their conduct, their manners and their diplomacy, but they lost the series 3-0, despite two brave near-misses. This is a crusade with only one objective – to finish ahead on the scoreboard. Jones wants his squad to fly home with the Cook Cup and he is actively encouraging the rattling of Australian cages.
This revived stroppy streak within the Red Rose ranks is delighting the Antipodean in charge of their thunderous run of seven successive victories. ‘It is coming from within the team,’ said Jones. ‘We have spoken about it all the time. English teams are their best when they have a physical pack of aggressive forwards and that is what we saw today.’
Yet, there was artistry at play too, along with all the antagonism and stifling pressure. No team can score 39 points against the Wallabies in one of their strongholds without being able to attack with conviction from time to time. Sure enough, England scored three tries and demonstrated a knack for seizing their scoring chances, to a far greater extent than their vanquished rivals. Australia claimed four tries, but Michael Cheika’s side left a few more behind along the way.
The visitors’ first try came when they capitalised on a loose pass by Israel Folau and Jonathan Joseph pounced to kick ahead and touch down. The other two had at their heart a player who played more of this match than he surely expected to prior to kick-off. George Ford was brought on in the 29th minute for Luther Burrell, as Jones showed his willingness to make ruthless decisions on the hoof.
Two weeks after being booed by sections of the Twickenham crowd when England beat Wales, Ford played a magnificent hand in this victory; adding another tactical kicking outlet to give his side greater control and setting up the last two tries. Just after half-time, the Bath playmaker withstood the shock of seeing James Haskell side-step a winger to send Marland Yarde over the line with a fine long pass. Then, at the death, his astute and deft low kick released Jack Nowell to touch down.
Ford categorically refused to consider this occasion as a scene of personal redemption, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. ‘It is obviously a great feeling,’ he said. To win the first Test down here is a great effort. The boys are really happy, but we know we are going to have to up the performance next week and fix a few parts of our game up. We want to win the next game.
While Ford joked that Haskell ‘hasn’t shut up’ about his storming run and side-step to pave the way for Yarde’s try, he also paid a fitting tribute to the deserving Man of the Match and his fellow forwards. ‘I thought Hask was outstanding again today as were all the pack – again. The hits that they put in; they put their bodies on the line every collision in that game.’
Bodies were on the line to bring the Bodyline concept to life. Now, the reward for so much sterling work is that English glory beckons. Jones has no major injury problems to wrestle with, while Cheika has lost Pocock and potentially lock Rob Simmons and wing Rob Horne too. The pendulum has swung a long way in favour of the visitors. Logic dictates that they will reunite Ford and Farrell as the 10-12 axis and powerful momentum will propel them towards an even more historic achievement
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Posted on June 13th, 2016
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