If you were pleased and disappointed in equal measure atthe football team’s performance against USA, spare a though for Martin Johnson and his coaching staff after seeing team blow hot and cold in OZ.
It is hard to know what to make of England’s performance against Australia in the 27-17 defeat in Perth on Saturday.
A listless first half was characterised by a lack of finesse, poor tackling and an over-reliance on the forwards to break the gain line which they failed to accomplish.
Yet the second half was a pitch-perfect display in how to scrummage while some improved distribution of the ball through the hands hinted at the potential flair that resides in the back division.
It must be remembered that Martin Johnson’s side were playing a team that is starting to pride itself on their positive outlook with the likes of James O’Connor and Drew Mitchell given license to attack from deep at every opportunity.
While those two are certainly slippery customers, the ease with which they were able to wriggle out of tackles will have perturbed England coach Martin Johnson.
The precision – both in hand and via his boot – of Quade Cooper also continually pushed the tourists on to the back foot and it was not until past the half hour mark that England had any sustained possession in the Wallabies’ half.
They were unable to convert that opportunity but the renewed vigour with which England came out in the second half will have relieved their suffering supporters.
Referee Nigel Owens was kind enough to award them two penalty tries as the Australia forwards creaked and then crumbled under immense pressure from the England scrum.
It was a moral victory if sorts but, as Johnson admitted after the game, you need more than just a strong front eight if you are to win down under.
From an individual perspective, the one real plus for the tourists at the Subiaco Oval was the substitute performance of scrum half Ben Youngs.
The Leicester man replaced the stuttering Danny Care and immediately transformed the back division from a static line of plodders into a more vibrant and dangerous unit.
His zippy flat passes coupled with the odd delayed distribution brought another string to England’s bow even though they were still unable to get over the whitewash by traditional means.
While it might be too early to expect much from an international rookie, it would be a surprise if Johnson did not give him a starting berth in the second test in Sydney.
England must sharpen up defensively if they are to have any chance of levelling the series but they could do worse than take a leaf out of Audtralia’s book and trust their attacking instincts.
England Autumn International Fixtures:
Nov 13 – England v Australia, Twickenham
Nov 20 – England v Samoa, Twickenham
Nov 27 – England v South Africa, Twickenham
Original article published on Tixdaq.com