LONDON: The Wallabies have crushed England’s hopes and dreams with a 33-13 triumph at Twickenham, blowing the World Cup wide open and delivering a killer blow which will send English rugby into turmoil this week.
Five-eighth Bernard Foley led the charge to knock the hosts out of the World Cup in their own backyard, scoring 28 points in his best game in a gold jersey.
And to rub salt into England’s deep wounds, the Wallabies’ scrum muscled up and gave England a nightmare that will haunt them for the next four years.
It was sweet payback for Australia’s scrum embarrassment at the 2007 World Cup, where England marched all over the Wallabies and bullied them out of the set-piece contest.
But the tables were turned at a traditional Australian scrum graveyard at Twickenham and it was the icing on top as England became the first host nation in World Cup history to be out of contention before the end of the group stage.
The 81,008 strong crowd started filing out of the stadium as Foley’s two tries, two conversions and four penalties silenced an entire country. The Wallabies will play Wales next weekend to decide who finishes top of the pool of death.
England, however, will be a nation in mourning as they come to grips with their World Cup disaster. Amazingly, it was the Australian scrum that won plenty of penalties and momentum in a stunning forward-pack effort.
Twickenham has been a graveyard for Wallabies packs in the past, but they erased any lingering nightmares to blow their hosts off the park at their own set-piece game.
The resounding win – Australia led from start to finish – will send a warning shot to the rest of the world as the Wallabies announced themselves as genuine title contenders.
The double act of Michael Hooper and David Pocock was also superb, justifying the decision to pick two openside flankers in the starting side with some superb breakdown work.
The only concerns for Australia were a shoulder injury to Rob Horne, which forced him to leave the field in the 10th minute and fullback Israel Folau rolled his ankle.
The Wallabies felt the heat early but they withstood England’s storm to hold on in defence and then Foley sliced through some woeful defence to score the opener.
England fullback Mike Brown had a shocker to start the game, making two mistakes close to his line and then missing the final tackle on Foley before he opened up a 10-3 gap.
All the build-up was about a battle between the two forward packs, but it was Foley who ignited the game. He made a superb decision to switch the play in attack and threw a superb inside ball to a flying Kurtley Beale.
Foley backed up and got the ball back to score his second try of the half and deliver a devastating blow to England’s hopes with a personal haul of 17 points in the first 35 minutes.
There were question marks about Australia’s combinations given the starting XV had only played together twice in two months but attack coach Stephen Larkham’s fingerprints were all over some brilliance with the ball as the Wallabies opened up English wounds.
The only dampener to a 17-3 half-time lead was Horne’s injury. The winger showed an enormous amount of courage, staying on the field and in the defensive line despite his arm hanging limply but if the damage is bad his tournament could be over and the Wallabies might be forced to call someone into the squad this week.
Pocock, meanwhile, was pinching the ball at every opportunity, and most importantly his big plays came every time England were mounting a charge in attack.
The change in Australian mentality was evident when they won a penalty and opted for an attacking scrum with England under the pump. The Wallabies went for a big push and won a penalty of their own, proving they’re no longer lightweights in the set piece.
Foley converted the penalty and then shut down a certain England try when he cut off a pass which would have opened the game right up.
Foley was the last man again when England went on the attack in the 56th minute, but his desperate tackle couldn’t stop winger Anthony Watson going over in the corner.
Owen Farrell’s conversion closed the margin to 10 points and the home crowd found their voice, belting out Swing Low Sweet Chariot to bring new life to the game.
It started a wave of England attack and the Wallabies had to desperately hold on as the hosts threw everything at them.
England got within seven with another penalty to Farrell and NRL convert Sam Burgess was injected as they launched their fightback.
However, the game swung back in the Wallabies’ favour when Farrell was sent to the sin bin for a hit behind the play that left Matt Giteau writhing in pain on the ground.
Foley stepped up again to take his tally to 26 – the highest individual haul by an Australian against England, passing fullback great Matthew Burke.
Giteau put the final nail in the coffin with another great try and Foley converted from the sideline to secure Australia’s biggest-ever win at Twickenham.