venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
31st October 2009
Full Match Report
GILLETTE FOUR NATIONS GROUP MATCH
England mounted a bold second-half fightback but lost to Australia after a miserable first-half left them with too much to do in their Four Nations match.Two tries from Billy Slater and scores from skipper Darren Lockyer, Greg Inglis and Brett Morris helped the Kangaroos lead 26-0 at half-time.
England improved considerably after the break and finally enjoyed a spell of pressure close to the Australian line. Sam Burgess, Gareth Ellis and Lee Smith scored but the damage was already done. Tony Smith's team, who defeated underdogs France in their opening fixture, take on New Zealand in Huddersfield next Saturday and need to repeat their second-half showing if they are to have any chance of defeating the world champions.
It was a painful opening 40 minutes for the home side, who lost 52-4 to Australia in Melbourne at the World Cup last November and appeared destined for another hammering.With a youthful back division operating behind a combative pack, many home supporters were looking for signs of improvement and, perhaps, a bright future - but any hopes of a shock victory were quickly extinguished. England once again had their defensive weaknesses ruthlessly exposed by an Australian backline that is much heralded but nonetheless spluttered against New Zealand last Saturday.
Inglis was the first to puncture it after collecting a long pass from Lockyer, and the powerful centre slipped the ball back inside for his captain to score his 33rd try for his country. It came after a cagey and relatively even few minutes - and even after conceding England threatened, with Sinfield almost catching the Kangaroos defence out with a grubber kick and then going close to the opposition line before throwing an optimistic pass that was intercepted.
But in truth Australia were vastly superior to their opponents and soon put the game beyond England. Australia attacked time and again down England's right side, with centre Smith and winger Tom Briscoe subject to a stern examination as the defensive line became stretched.
The visitors worked the ball from their right to left for Slater to score before another powerful break from centre Inglis culminated in an inside pass for the Kangaroos full-back to score his second try in a matter of minutes. Man-of-the-match Inglis was wreaking havoc and England seemed to have no answer.
England's NRL-bound forward Burgess failed to collect a poor pass and within seconds Inglis was sent clear for an 80-yard sprint that looked effortless but easily evaded the chasing defenders before the Melbourne Storm player scored under the posts. Another sweeping move from right to left resulted in the final score of the half, with winger Morris touching down in the corner.
England coach Smith make a tactical change at the break, moving Smith out to the wing and bringing on young St Helens star Kyle Eastmond at centre. And if England had been awful in the opening half they produced a second-half display to rebuild their confidence and suggest they can hurt the world's best teams. England finally enjoyed a spell of possession and played the majority of the second-half inside opposition territory.
Smith's team played with a determination and invention previously absent and finally forced some errors from their opponents; Inglis and Petero Civoniceva knocked-on, while Johnathan Thurston was sin-binned for persistently spoiling around the play-the-ball. England, with McGuire and Sam Tomkins to the fore, started to ask some questions of their opponents, with teasing kicks and ambitious off-loads.
Ben Westwood was held up over the line and then Burgess barged over from close range, the try eventually awarded by the video referee. Burgess was correctly denied by the video referee after a high kick from McGuire but Gareth Ellis added another with a close-range finish. A looping pass from Eastmond was collected by Smith, who just crossed in the corner. The conversion was missed but England had scored 16 unanswered points after the break to add respectability to the scoreline.
S Briscoe; T Briscoe, Smith, Shenton, Hall; McGuire, Tomkins; Morley, Roby, Graham, Ellis, Peacock (c), Sinfield. Replacements: Burgess, Crabtree, Eastmond, Westwood.
Slater; B Morris, Inglis, Hodges, Hayne; Lockyer (c), Thurston; Civoniceva, Smith, Hannant, Watmough, Gallen, Hindmarsh. Replacements: Farah, White, Lewis, Shillington.