Brilliant England Conquer Toughest Test Yet

Brilliant England Conquer Toughest Test Yet

This brilliant Test series delivered a fitting finale

In the most seesaw, topsy-turvy of games, England secured a clean sweep of the Wallabies with a performance packed full of heart and instinct. Any dangers of complacency were disregarded in the opening exchanges as the hosts threw everything and everyone at England but Eddie Jones' warriors came out on top. History makers, again.

The class of 2016 will now be known as the clean-sweepers. The group of players who came to Australia as heavy underdogs, a team perceived to have little chances of winning a Test, let alone the series, but after a gruelling season they managed to get every last drive out of their legs to win 44-40. But how they were made to work for it.

This was the Australia we have been waiting for. A team packed full of Faustian dilemmas: the physical devilry with Sekope Kepu and Will Skelton causing all sorts of damage partnered with the angelic, heaven-sent ability of Matt Toomua, Michael Hooper and Israel Folau.

Toomua was fantastic. He has this wonderful ability to buy himself time on the ball, assess his options and then deliver the pinpoint pass, kick or run -- and all in the blink of an eye. That combination between him, his fly-half Bernard Foley and fullback Folau caused England all sorts of difficulty. Stop one wave of attack and then up pops another to keep you turning like a corkscrew. It was brilliant to watch.

Folau is one of the most dangerous runners in world rugby and Foley put in his best performance of the series but they couldn't have had the influence they did without the stern performance from the Australian pack.

Sean McMahon was magnificent at the back while Skelton and Kepu brought a physicality and direct approach that England hadn't faced in the first two Tests. However, it was a ballast that tailed off as the game progressed.

Their impact on the gainline, a battle England lost in the first half, caused Eddie Jones to deliver yet another 'gut instinct' substitution, as he calls them. In the first Test he hooked off Luther Burrell after just 29 minutes, here in Sydney it was his Saints teammate Teimana Harrison who lasted just two further minutes before being replaced by Courtney Lawes.

England, who missed the brilliant but injured James Haskell, looked far more assured with Lawes on the field, a switch which saw Maro Itoje move to the back-row. He was again supreme; he just does not seem to have poor matches. He has won every game he has started this season for club and country, a quite remarkable feat.

But this was a match where Ben Youngs and Mike Brown came to the fore. Youngs was deadly around the breakdown while Brown was ferocious in every aspect of his game and had his best match of the series, as did George Ford. The England fly-half was fantastic in attack and defence, probing the corners and put in one of the most delicious passes you will see in the build-up to Jamie George's second-half try. Jack Nowell was also effective throughout and his turnover on Folau in the final throes of the first half was a great piece of larceny.

And then there was Owen Farrell. His boot has been lethal, accurate and timely. He has had an outstanding series and is at the heartbeat of the Jones revolution. And he's only 24. Scary.

Australia's attention switches to the Rugby Championship. They will feel they have a point to prove after being given a humbling defeat on their own soil. This will hurt them but they have all the ingredients to get back to their World Cup best.

England will now pick their exhausted frames off the floor and head back home. The message will be: this is just the start. But they should take time to appreciate the magnitude of what they have achieved on Australian soil. They have shown remarkable, unmatched character and an ability to switch between gameplans to adapt to whatever is being thrown at them. Their mental strength is at an all-time high.

The noise of 'Swing, Low' drifting on the Sydney night air and in the concourses will stay with them while they will wear those smiles for all summer.

They will meet next for the November series. Do we really have to wait that long?

– Entry was posted on June 29th, 2016 by James Haskell

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