Cheika fumes as Wallabies finish year with defeat at Twickenham

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has suggested the Wallabies "should move to the Northern Hemisphere" after a controversial Owen Farrell shoulder charge went unpunished in Wallabies' 37-18 loss to England at Twickenham.

It was a rollercoaster way to end a rollercoaster season that has yielded just four wins from 13 Tests, compounded by the news of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale being sanctioned this week for breaching team protocol.

Rugby Australia has at every stage this season backed Cheika and his team but an end of season review will be critical if the Wallabies want to prove themselves at next year's Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies had their moments at Twickenham but they were dominated in the breakdown for much of the match and simple defensive errors often put them under pressure.

England out-muscled them in the breakdown and it was another patchy night in the scrum for Australia, with the hosts putting that pressure on from the get go.

The night wasn’t without controversy - the Wallabies had one try disallowed in the clash for a forward pass, and another half-chance was pulled back when Sekope Kepu picked the ball up at a ruck from in front.

But it was a probable try stopped by Farrell that generated the most controversy.

Australia lock Izack Rodda was in the clear in the 39th minute but was stopped short of the line by a clear-cut no-arms tackle from Farrell.

The hit went entirely unpunished by referee Jaco Peyper,  who also resisted attempts for a TMO review. Astonishingly, Peyper told Wallabies captain that Rodda dropped his shoulder as well.

The Wallabies were trailing 13-10 at the time, and though they took a penalty to be level at 13-all at halftime, they were denied the chance for a penalty try and a 17-10 lead.

Instead of being sin-binned, Farrell then set up a try for England four minutes into the second half that pushed them a score clear.

It's not the first time Farrell has been involved in a debatable shoulder charge decision, after avoiding punishment for a shoulder charge on Springboks back Andre Esterhuizen in their first November international, an incident that was discussed at a recent referees' meeting.

Cheika was frustrated with the referees' decision not to look to the TMO for that one when speaking to Sky Sports post-match.

"We had three disallowed tries, because I’m counting that as one," he said.

"Not one referred back … maybe we’ve got to move Australian up to the Northern hemisphere because the shoulder charge penalty … we went to the referees' meeting in the first week after the South Africa game where the referees categorically told us that should have been a penalty. If that’s a penalty, that one is three penalties."

"The idea the referee would say that our player ran in and shoulder charged the opposition is ludicrous."

It was a decision that even Sky Sports commentator Clive Woodward was bewildered at, speaking on the broadcast at half-time.

‘For me it is a penalty try - he was going to score, so it has to be a penalty try,” he said

“Definitely. England have got away with that big time."

Asked about the decision, post-match England coach Eddie Jones simply said every decision has to be accepted.

"You guys love the TMO, I don't. I accept the decision the TMO makes," he said.

"We've had some good decisions and some bad decisions. You just accept it."

While clearly not happy with that decision, Cheika also pointed to some holes in his own side after that clash.

"We needed to be better, needed attack more in the second half. We kicked too much ball away and when we attacked and tried to be creative, we looked really good.

"We kicked far too much all the way."

Farrell went on to play a key role in England’s victory and finished with 22 of England's 37 points.

Though it wasn’t necessarily the match decider in a 19-point game, it was a head scratching decision that leaves little clarity around something that has been contentious all year. 

The Wallabies will take little solace out of any injustice, though, after a sixth consecutive loss to England and a defeat that leaves them with one of their leanest Test years on record.

Things looked concerning just 30 seconds in when a Dane Haylett-Petty kick was almost charged down by Ben Youngs just off the Wallabies line and though Bernard Foley was able to clean that up, a push into the in-goal gave England the first chance to get on top in the scrum.

And get on top they did, a trend that would continue for much of the evening, with Youngs’ swift outside pass putting winger Jonny May over in just the third minute.

Owen Farrell racked up the points for England. Photo: Getty ImagesSkipper Michael Hooper went straight to the posts with the Wallabies’ first shot at points in the sixth minute and Matt To’omua duly converted to narrow the gap to four points.

The Wallabies were being driven back in attack by a beefed-up England side and a penalty against Israel Folau in the ruck gave Farrell a chance to extend their lead, but his effort fell short and the Wallabies were briefly off the hook, before the playmaker took his next chance.

Disjointed was a term the team have used about their attack at times on this tour and that was how the Wallabies looked again early in London, things just not quite clicking against an England side that was growing in confidence.

A misjudged To’omua pass that found no one and a Foley handling error both put the Wallabies under pressure.

Centurion Will Genia made a promising break in the 26th minute and it looked like it could be enough to put the Wallabies over but an awkward pass to Foley only reached the centre’s foot and England pounced. 

Dane Haylett-Petty looked to have orchestrated a try for the Wallabies but his pass to Samu Kerevi on the edge was deemed forward by the TMO and ultimately the score was disallowed.

England’s big forward pack wreaked havoc in the Wallabies’ attacking breakdown and by the half-hour mark had already won seven turnovers to Australia’s two.

Izack Rodda may have counted himself lucky not to be sent to the bin in the 33rd minute after a tip tackle on fullback Elliot Daly but it was another penalty chance for Farrell and the margin hit double digits.

Israel Folau had two tries at Twickenham. Photo: Getty ImagesFolau began to find some space as the half ticked on, and looking hungry for a try he ran hard onto a Sekope Kepu pass, taking a superb line through the English defence for a indisputable try, with Rodda’s chance coming just four minutes later.

England were first to score after the break with a Farrell dummy opening up a defensive gap for Daly to slip through in the 44th minute.

A futile Haylett-Petty tackle attempt failed to stop the run of Cokanasiga, who went through for England’s third and only a desperate Hooper tackle stopped him from nabbing a second just minutes later.

Farrell had a third penalty in the 64th minute to put the game out of reach in the final quarter, and the Wallabies began to

An ambitious Foley pass bounced in front of Sefa Naivalu and though the wing gathered it, his own desperate offload as he was pushed into touch gave England a chance to counter attack, resulting in a score that was disallowed with the lead-up kick grazing touch.

A lineout overthrow cooked the Wallabies chances of mounting another late attack and it was all one-way traffic in the final 10 minutes.

Farrell scored the final England  try in the 76th minute in front of 81,275 at Twickenham but it was Folau who had the final say on the game with a consolation try narrowing the full-time gap to 19.

The Wallabies will remain in London until Tuesday before flying home to Australia. 


England 37

Tries: May, Daly, Cokanasiga, Farrell

Cons: Farrell 4

Pens: Farrell 3

Australia 18

Tries: Folau 2

Cons: To’omua

Pens: To’omua 2