England shoot early to beat Wallabies to level series
SYDNEY: Owen Farrell scored 20 points as England took a commanding lead and held off a fiery Australian fightback to level the three-game series at 1-1 with a 25-17 win at Brisbane on Saturday.
An early try from Billy Vunipola and four penalties gave England a 19-0 lead in the 32nd minute and two more three-pointers from Farrell in the second half proved enough to take the series to a decider at Sydney Cricket Ground next Saturday.
Australia, a 30-28 winner in the series opener last week, scored tries through Taniela Tupou and Samu Kerevi either side of half-time but were unable to extend his 10-game winning streak at Lang Park.
England coach Eddie Jones had grabbed the headlines with the selection of three rookies in his backline, but it was the seasoned veterans of his squad and Farrell’s near infallible boot that clinched victory.
“We were beaten last week, we talked about coping, especially the strikers, and I thought we did that today,” said number eight Vunipola.
“Eddie is a nice guy but a badass and we had to play today.”
The men in white stormed the gate with big hits, dominating set pieces and a brand of direct rugby that had the Australians holding them back.
Vunipola crashed down the line at the back of a maul from an offensive lineup in the fifth minute with playmaker Farrell adding the conversion.
Farrell then punished poor Australian discipline with four penalties which left the home side with a mountain to climb after just over half an hour.
Australia, who lost full-back Jordan Petaia to an early concussion and saw substitute Izaia Perese yellow card in the 22nd minute, were finally put on the scoreboard in the 37th minute.
The Wallabies set up several attacking phases in a rare foray into the English half before prop Tupou managed to force their way over the try line.
Farrell added his fifth penalty shortly after the break to extend England’s lead to 22-7, but Australia responded with another attacking raid that saw center Kerevi cut to touch down.
Flyhalf Noah Lolesio added the extras before nailing a penalty to cut the deficit to 22-17 after counterpart Marcus Smith was sent to the trash for a deliberate knockdown.
The game turned just before Smith’s return as Australian winger Tom Wright made a superb break, hacked forward and forced the England defender to touch close to the line.
Substitute hooker Folau Fainga’a, however, wasted his effort with a crooked throw to the lineout and a minute later Farrell wrapped up the scoring with his sixth penalty.
“I think we were our own worst enemies, but England were exceptional,” Kerevi said.
“They went to their strengths in the free kick and that to their credit.”