Rugby World Cup Pool A: Hosts England exit thanks to fab Foley
Tournament hosts England found themselves eliminated from the Rugby World Cup, because of a fantastic all-round display from Australia fly half Bernard Foley, who almost single-handedly secured a 33-13 victory for the visitors at Twickenham.
An early penalty, briefly cancelled out by the later sin-binned Owen Farrell’s kick, saw Foley follow up with two converted tries – putting all but five Wallabies points on the board himself – to establish a 17-3 half-time lead they never really looked in danger of surrendering.
Stuart Lancaster’s side saw their own drives in the opening 40 minutes come up short through the returning Jonathan Joseph and Joe Launchbury, with Anthony Watson ultimately crossing in vain when set up by the latter during the second period.
Further Foley damage, supplemented by Matt Giteau’s late try, after the interval ensured England became the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout phase of a Rugby World Cup; an unwanted stat that serves as a chilling epitaph for this campaign.
Israel Folau thought he had grabbed the opener when the Aussies had an advantage, but his knock-on when crossing meant Foley kicking a penalty to give them the lead instead. When the Wallabies collapsed in a scrum, however, Farrell was able to level at 3-3.
On 20 minutes, Foley found a way through with a weaving run to go over and coolly converted to extend Australia’s lead to 10-3. The fly half crossed again six minutes before the break, nimbly nipping in after exchanging passes with replacement Kurtley Beale.
England’s early attempts at a second-half response were repelled by a gold and green wall, with Foley profiting from prop Joe Marley’s ill-discipline to take the Wallabies to 20 points.
Launchbury then teed up Watson to launch himself over and give the hosts hope of a comeback, but it came to nothing despite Farrell converting and later adding another penalty. With English tails up after coming to within a converted try of Australia, it was man of the match Foley that brought composure.
The hosts’ fate was sealed, however, when Farrell was sin-binned inside the final 10 minutes for tackling Giteau without the ball on a video review by the TMO.
That afforded Foley further opportunities with two more penalties, plus converting Giteau’s late crossing, sealing a record individual Wallabies haul of 28 points against England.
Aussie coach Michael Cheika saw his decision to revert back to the XV that made a victorious start to Pool A vindicated entirely by such a significant and terminal result for opposite number Lancaster, whose future is now in real doubt.
Defeat for England also confirms Wales’ place in the quarter-finals alongside the Wallabies. That makes the battle between Australia, cut into 7/2 second favourites with Coral (from 13/2) to win the Rugby World Cup, and Warren Gatland’s men next weekend a dead rubber.
Both the Wallabies and Wales will be keen to avoid facing resurgent South Africa in the last eight, though. English rugby’s soul-searching begins again with the current crop crumbling on the biggest stage and simply unable emulate that triumphant 2003 vintage.