The Wallabies’ sharper cutting edge in attack was on full display in both of their first-half tries, both finished by Bernard Foley who scored nearly all of their points in a classy performance from Michael Cheika’s ever-improving side.
Anthony Watson’s try just before the 60-minute mark gave England a lifeline but a yellow card for Owen Farrell with ten minutes meant their fightback was in vain, as two Foley penalties and a try from Matt Giteau in the final minute confirmed the result.
Much was made about the set-piece and breakdown beforehand and both areas went Australia’s way – the scrum more than holding up, beating England at their own game, while they were rampant at the breakdown as David Pocock reigned supreme.
Twickenham has rarely felt so edgy before kick-off, with so much at stake for England as they looked to avoid disaster and the ignominy of being the first World Cup hosts to not make the knockout stage.
They will now have to live with that billing for the rest of their lives, after being outclassed in every area for the majority of the 80 minutes.
Off first-phase ball England always threatened but as soon as momentum was lost and Australia regrouped, Pocock was there to do what he does so well at the breakdown. He more than delivered, assisted well as ever by Michael Hooper.
It was Hooper’s big hit on Farrell that set the tone as English nerves were highlighted by basic errors from Ben Youngs and Mike Brown, the England full-back then redeeming himself with a try-saving tackle on Israel Folau in only the fourth minute.
With a man outside and only open grass in his way, it was a butchered chance. Foley though made it 3-0 after England went offside.
A break from Watson on England’s first real attack showed promise, culminating in a scrum penalty right in front of the posts which Farrell couldn’t miss.
Australia’s patience paid off with a try for Foley after multiple phases crashing into English tacklers, one of the highlights being a superb offload by Sekope Kepu before the Wallabies fly-half fixed up Ben Youngs and stepped through Brown’s tackle to score.
Half-breaks and small moments offered the majority of Twickenham’s 81,080 crowd some hope, but Australia were dominant at the breakdown.
A penalty against Joe Marler for angling in at the scrum set Australia for an attack and led to their second try – Waratahs team-mates Foley and Kurtley Beale combining brilliantly with a one-two pass to release the fly-half into space, carried out with a level of execution that England were sorely missing.
With the conversion Australia headed into half-time ahead 17-3, a huge advantage which base on the first half looked good enough to win it.
England’s omens looked grim when Jonny May appeared to injure himself running out for the second half, forcing Joseph onto the wing at a time when they needed the ball in his hands the most.
A now dominant Australian scrum milked three more points for a 20-3 lead after 50 minutes. It could have been more; Foley inches away from an interception and a possible hat-trick as England desperately tried to shift the ball wide, before he was blocked by Dan Cole who arguably could have been penalised.
Never have England been so desperate for a score and it came through Watson. England looked sharper with Ford in control at fly-half and the space was made for Watson to back himself and accelerate through the gap for a fine solo try, with Farrell converting to make it 20-10.
Three more points from Farrell and all of a sudden having been dead and buried, England were within a score.
Farrell’s yellow card for a tackling a man without the ball on Giteau though was a killer, allowing Foley to add three more points taking his and Australia’s tally to 23.
Appropriately the Wallaby scrum sealed the deal, forcing Kieran Brookes to collapse as Foley one final nail into England’s coffin to make it 26-13.
England never responded as the noise was sucked out of Twickenham, the reality setting in that next weekend’s game with Uruguay will mean absolutely nothing.
Australia, comfortably the better side, are now dreaming of the quarter-finals and look right in the hunt for the title – their magnificent capped off by a try for Giteau in the corner as England left the field booed by their disconsolate supporters.
The Pool of Death has chosen its victim, as England and their coach Stuart Lancaster prepare for the backlash.
Pens: Farrell 2
Yellow card: Farrell
Tries: Foley 2. Giteau
Cons: Foley 3
Pens: Foley 4
- England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Nick Easter, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Sam Burgess
- Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale
- Date: Saturday, October 3
- Venue: Twickenham
- Referee: Romain Poite (France)
- Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
- TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
- Full Pool Previews – Click Individual Pool Below