The quarterfinals are here!
After three brilliant weeks of pool games, eight teams have qualified for the knockouts with four of those teams in action today. In the first game of Super Saturday, Australia faced off against England at Oita stadium.
These two sides share a long running history of contests – they have met 50 times before with Australia gaining the edge with 25 victories compared to England’s 24. Additionally, they’ve met six times in the World Cup winning three a piece. However, England had won the last six Test matches against the Wallabies and if their history was anything to go by, this game was anyone’s call.
Following a proud rendition of the anthems, the game kicked off to much fanfare.
England 40-16 Australia: Watch highlights below
The initial few minutes saw a frantic start and it was the Aussies who would land the first blow after they were awarded a penalty 11 minutes in. Christian Lealiifano added the three points for an early Aussie lead.
18 minutes in though and England fought back after Jonny May rambled over the line in the corner to score on his 50th cap for England. Owen Farrell grabbed the conversion for a score of 7-3 to England.
Just two minutes later, England pulled out a 11 point lead after May touched down for his second try off a beautifully weighted kick from Henry Slade. Farrell added the resulting two points.
25 minutes into the high-flying encounter, Australia were handed another penalty and Lealiifano smartly cut the deficit down to eight points.
Four minutes later though, it was England’s turn to have a penalty and Farrell stepped up and converted with no mistake for a score of 17-6 to England.
40 minutes in and the Wallabies got their third penalty of the tie and once again, Lealiifano added the three points for a halftime score of 17-9.
Halftime stats showed Australia having 60% of the possession and with 248m made compared to England’s 162m. Despite the lead, England would not have been happy to concede five penalties compared to just one for the Wallabies.
1 – Only once before has a side won a @rugbyworldcup knockout game despite trailing by 8+ points at halftime – @FranceRugby against New Zealand in 2007 (trailed 3-13 at HT). Epic.#RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/YLImixMmzq
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 19, 2019
The second half kicked off and Australia wasted no time in getting going – they did brilliantly to evade the defence as Jordan Petaia eventually found Marika Koroibete who scrabbled past Elliot Daly to score in the corner. Lealiifano converted for a score of 17-16.
England certainly didn’t take things lying down as 45 minutes in, they responded with their third try of the game. Kyle Sinckler was the man responsible as he crashed over the line to score. Farrell converted for a score of 24-16.
50 minutes in and England grabbed three more points after being awarded a penalty from which Farrell made no mistake.
— ugo monye (@ugomonye) October 19, 2019
65 minutes into the encounter and England had another penalty – once again, Farrell stepped up and converted to push the score to 30-16.
Entering the final 10 minutes of the game, yet another penalty arrived England’s way and Farrell’s effort put his team 17 points clear as the semifinals beckoned for Eddie Jones’s side.
76 minutes in and the game was finally put to bed after Anthony Watson brilliantly intercepted a miss-pass from Kurtley Beale to touch down under the posts. Farrell added the two points for a final score of 40-16.
And so it finished at Oita with the English becoming the first team to secure a semifinal berth. For all the prematch talk of a tightly contested game, the English ended up strolling to victory with a clinical, disciplined and professional performance.
Australia meanwhile were left to rue a poor start to the game. Twice already in the tournament, they found themselves trailing at halftime and only on one occasion did they manage to overturn the halftime score to win against Fiji. In this game, they cut the deficit down to a solitary point at one stage but failed to produce anything of note since that as England pulled away in the second half.
England captain Owen Farrell spoke post-game:
“I thought Australia made that a brilliant game. They attacked throughout but our boys did well in defence and managed to get some field position off the back of it. We know when we have field position we can be pretty dangerous.”
“We did what was needed. We had the lead and Australia were throwing everything at us again. We wanted to play the game at our pace and we did that in the second half.”
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) October 19, 2019
England coach Eddie Jones also spoke:
“We are so excited about the semi-final. We can go and challenge whoever we are playing against and see where we can go. We haven’t been at our best yet and that is the challenge to see how we can get to our best.”
24 – @EnglandRugby's 24-point victory was their joint biggest Test win against Australia, in fact their three biggest victories against the Wallabies have come under Eddie Jones. Masterful.#RWC2019 #ENGvAUS pic.twitter.com/NugKbW99tB
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 19, 2019
After this solid performance, England will be buzzing about their semi-final encounter against either New Zealand or Ireland. Whoever they face, this English side have staked a serious claim for the trophy.