England yesterday showed that they could take a beating at the Rugby World Cup as they thumped their old enemies Australia 40-16 to become the first team to reach the semi-finals.
Wing Jonny May scored the first two of England’s four tries in just three minutes of the first half as they set up a clash in the semi-finals against defending champions New Zealand, who played later.
Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson crossed in the second half and 20 points flowed from Owen Farrell’s perfect kicking as Eddie Jones’ men throttled the Wallabies’ attempts to claw their way back into it.
“We did what’s needed. We had the lead and obviously Australia were throwing everything at us,” Farrell said. “We wanted to play the game at our pace not theirs, and we did that in the second half.”
With his contract up after the World Cup, the defeat appears to have ended Michael Cheika’s five-year stint as Wallabies coach, whose highlight was reaching the World Cup final in 2015.
“The better team won. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to suck that up sometimes,” said Cheika, a former teammate of Jones at Sydney’s Randwick club. “I was supposed to get this done for the people here and the Australians. It’s so disappointing.”
Australia looked dangerous early on, but England seized the advantage with May’s quickfire try double.
England stretched the Australian defense as they attacked right and then left, before Tom Curry, who was selected man of the match, drew the final defender to give the left wing an easy score in the corner.
Henry Slade then intercepted the ball on halfway and raced toward the try-line before chipping into space with a kick that was deftly gathered by the England wing.
Three Christian Lealiifano penalties kept Australia in touch at 17-9 at halftime and they came storming back after the restart when Marika Koroibete skinned Elliot Daly to cross for the Wallabies.
However, England hit back almost immediately when Farrell picked out Sinckler with a bullet pass and the prop burst through a gap for his first international try.
Watson’s late intercept try completed the job for England, who equaled their record margin of victory against Australia — and beat them for a third time in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Today, Wales face France in Oita and hosts Japan, the tournament’s surprise package, play the first World Cup quarter-final in their history against South Africa in Tokyo.
Also yesterday, it was:
‧ New Zealand 46, Ireland 14
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