The new-look Australian team put on a powerhouse display to run over the top of a gallant English outfit after an uninspiring opening half of play punctuated by a number of handling errors.
Both sides fielded relatively young sides in what was the first step on the road to the 2007 World Cup and it took a while for the combinations on both sides to gel. Australia had the better of the early exchanges and forced the bulk of play down England’s end of the field. Eventually, the pressure told as the Wallabies put first points on the board through a Stirling Mortlock penalty after 17 minutes following a ruck infringement from England 30 metres out from their own line.
Mortlock kicked a second penalty in the 35th minute to push the lead out to 6-nil before England responded through 21-year-old winger Tom Varndell. Playing in only his second Test, the young flyer made a great break down the right touchline to take play into the Australian 22. The English forwards rolled the ball towards the tryline and a flyhalf Olly Barkley grubber kicked into the ingoal where fullback Iain Balshaw charged through and looked certain to score. But George Gregan was on hand to make a great ball-and-all tackle and roll Balshaw onto his back – the Third Match Official (TMO) ruling the ball had been held-up.
England kept up the pressure and was rewarded with a penalty inside the Wallabies’ quarter but Barkley pushed an easy shot wide to leave the score at 6-0. The Wallabies had a host of chances to put further points on the board after making a number of line-breaks but couldn’t hold onto the last pass with the tryline beckoning. Mortlock kicked a penalty right on half time to make the score 9-0 at the break.
Barkley and Mortlock exchanged penalties in the opening minutes of the second half to make the score 12-3 before the Wallabies scored the first try in the 54th minute through fullback Chris Latham. From a line-out on the England 22, Stephen Larkham threw a great cut out ball to Mortlock who stepped inside veteran centre Mike Catt before popping a deft pass for Latham to charge through a gap and race around Balshaw to dive over adjacent to the posts. Mortlock converted to give the home side a convincing 19-3 lead.
Mortlock added his fifth penalty goal with 13 minutes to go before the floodgates opened.
From an attacking raid deep inside their own half, the Wallabies cut the English defence to ribbons – an inside ball from Mortlock putting replacement winger Clyde Rathbone into the clear. He raced inside England’s quarter and got the ball away to Gerrard who fortuitously toed ahead and dived on the ball to score the second try of the night. Mortlock converted to make the score 29-3. Debutant prop Rodney Blake completed the rout when he found himself out in the centres after another slick Australian attacking raid and barged his way over out wide for the host’s third try.
Mortlock missed the conversion, but it mattered little as the Wallabies opened their 2006 international campaign in style by decimating the touring English outfit. www.sportal.com.au
Wallabies 34 (Latham, Gerrard, Blake 1t, Mortlock 5p, 2g) d England 3 (Barkley 1p).
WALLABIES CAN IMPROVE
Despite crushing England 34-3 in their Cook Cup clash, new Wallabies coach John Connolly said his team can still improve considerably on their opening performance of the 2006 Bundaberg Rum Rugby Series. Australia ran away with the match against the defending world champions in the last twenty minutes but the opening hour was less than fluid with both teams guilty of fundamental handling errors and giving up turnover ball.
“I think we were very rusty at the start and I think that was obvious,” said Connolly after the match. “We’ve been working on our offloads and playing the ball at the tackle and we continually just turned the ball over in the first half.”
But in reviewing the overall performance, Connolly was pleased with how the Wallabies played against the English outfit. “I think a lot more plus came out of it than minus’s,” stated Connolly.
“We are a new team and a new coaching team and it was really a jump into the unknown. I think that give us a line in the sand where we can move forward from,” he added. “We are happy with the win. In saying that, we all realise we still have a long way to go.”
Connolly was pleased with the display of his new loose forward combination of Daniel Heenan, George Smith and man-of-the-match Rocky Elsom, who was playing his first Test as Number 8.
Australia play England in Melbourne on Sat 17 June. You can catch the action LIVE on Sky Sports 2 on Sat 17 Jun at 10:30am.