What are we talking about after Australia's 37-21 loss to England?
1. The 80-minute performance eludes Australia.
A Grand Slam would have been off the charts but from the opening minute, it seemed the intensity brought to this England game was beyond anything Australia had shown all year. They reluctantly admitted at times this week that June was in their minds but whether or not they said it, the hunger for revenge was clear in every moment. The frenetic attack, the desperate defence, the anger in the confrontrations. The opening 20 minutes was incredible but their momentum was eroded as the clock ticked down. England’s quick-fire start to the second half opened up a 14-point hole for Australia and they couldn’t replicate their opening. The banter in the lead up might not have been personal, according to Eddie Jones, but this loss might just hurt a little bit more for the Wallabies on every level.
2. Opportunities cost scores
The Wallabies looked electric with the ball in hand as they have at points all year but they still coughed up some crucial opportunities. England’s tries were mainly off Australian errors, pouncing on a loose ball, or Ben Youngs catching the defence looking the wrong way after a penalty tap. A weight of early possession and territory was undone in the space of 12 minutes and a 14-point gap opened up by the 17 minute mark on the other side of the break.
3. Youngs takes the cake
Ben Youngs has grown in stature this season and the England scrumhalf was dominant again. His try was a sign of a switched on No.9 and he set up his side for success once again in a Man of the Match performance. England’s speedy reaction at the breakdown was partly down to him and the Leicester halfback will look back on 2016 as one of his best. Some may wonder how things would have been different if Will Genia was given a release from Stade Francais but all that can be said now, is Youngs got the better of the battle and capped off his year superbly.
4. Scrum ups and downs
Australia looked to take the early scrum battles and a tighthead led to their first try of the night, through Sefa Naivalu but things became more difficult from there. The early injection of Tom Robertson on the loosehead didn’t do much to quell the Wallabies’ late scrum concerns, but the set piece was just one part of the momentum they lost as the game ticked on. It was, as predicted, a crucial element of the game and England ultimately got the edge.
5. What now?
The Wallabies finish the year with a 6-9 win-loss record, ending it the same way they began in many respects. Thirteen debutants have been handed steep learning curves but all will play a part in Michael Cheika’s long-term plan. David Pocock goes away on sabbatical in 2017 and the Wallabies will have to wait a long time to see if they have made much progress. It’s too early to judge what this year will do for the Wallabies, but Cheika did suggest that he’s in it for the long haul. Another loss to England was not part of that plan, but not much has been this year. Cheika has been adamant that his side uses its pain to move forward and they’ll have to do that once again.