AUSvENG 2nd Test Match Report
by Emma Thurston #OutOnTheFull
At the AAMI Park in Melbourne England Rugby made history and secured a Test series victory over Australia in the most remarkable fashion. It was the type of Test match that will be replayed for years to come and will go down in the record books as one of the best defensive efforts that we have ever seen from an International side.
When the going got tough for the famous Class of 2003 they used to use the call ‘hit the beaches’. If Martin Johnson's voice boomed out those words it was the signal to up the intensity, put their bodies on the line and batten down the hatches. In Melbourne, this England side hit the beaches just before half-time and never really left them until Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje dislodged the ball out of Scott Fardy’s hands in the tackle which provided the turnover for Jamie George to work his magic from.
Defence coach Paul Gustard said after the game that he’d shared a poem with the side to focus their efforts ahead of the second-Test. The poem was by Dale Wimbrow called The Guy in the Glass and the words centre on seizing an opportunity and answering to yourself in order to be satisfied that you’ve given everything possible for your cause. It was clear that every single England player harnessed his inspiration and delivered. Paul Gustard is brilliant at combining both the technical elements of defensive with a meaningful emotional connection and just like he did at Saracens he’s turning England into a side with a fearsome and ferocious defence.
From one to 15 England’s players worked themselves into the ground and found new depths to their fitness reserves. This was showcased by the fact that James Haskell and Chris Robshaw left the field with nothing left to give and both are players that have engines the size of HGVs. England's final tackle count, recorded by Opta, was 213 to Australia's 62; James Haskell made 21, Maro Itoje 20 and Billy Vunipola 21. In order to target the ‘little guy at 10’ Australia ran as much as they could down the fly-half channel but it didn’t work as George Ford repelled everything thrown at him manfully. Phase after phase, minute after minute England held firm and never once thought that they would be broken. Australia turned down their shots at goal, clearly believing that England would crack, but that did not happen and Stephen Moore was left to rue his decisions.
Before this Summer Tour there were a number of people that believed that these three Test matches would halt England’s upwards trajectory and potentially derail their positive progression under Eddie Jones. Instead the opposite has happened and the opening two Tests have cemented England’s belief and are helping to accelerate their progress. From early on Eddie Jones said that his players didn’t realise how good they could be, but with back-to-back Test victories Down Under they will be starting to. The Australian won’t let them get ahead of themselves, nor will captain Dylan Hartley who has been outstanding in the role since moment one. Both men are desperate to succeed and both know that in order to do so the standards of the squad must be raised every single day.
So what comes next? What happens after you secure a Test series in Australia and make history? Well, in their Dylan’s words England 'go again'. This was the message that he delivered on the field in Melbourne still standing in his playing kit. He knows that they are capable of a 3-0 series whitewash and their head coach expects nothing less.
Eddie Jones has implored his players to think of this third test as a World Cup final, because you have to win three huge knockout games in a row to take the title and has challenged the squad to put their best 80 minutes out on the park. The Australian believes that we haven’t seen England’s best yet and he is right. The challenge or England is to see all areas of their game combine at once and if they do I expect us, and Australia, to be blown away by their output.