OITA – England stormed into the Rugby World Cup final four with a convincing 40-16 win over Australia in the quarterfinals before a crowd of 36,954 at Oita Stadium on Saturday.
The Europeans, who experienced the humiliation of being eliminated in the pool phase at the tourney’s 2015 edition as the hosts, will now play in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 2007, when they finished second overall.
After Australia got on the scoreboard first with a penalty goal, winger Jonny May scored two quick tries midway through the first half and England entered the intermission with a 17-9 lead.
The Wallabies, who went 3-1 in the pool phase, cut their deficit to 17-16 on a fabulous try by Marika Koroibete, who ran past an English defender three minutes into the second half.
But England, whose last match in Yokohama was canceled due to Typhoon Hagibis and competed in its first game in two weeks, extended the lead again when Kyle Sinckler scored a try on a powerful run in the middle in the 46th minute, followed by a pair of successful penalty goals by Owen Farrell.
England secured the victory with Farrell’s fourth penalty goal and a try by winger Anthony Watson, who intercepted an Australia pass in the 76th minute and turned it into points.
Farrell slotted all his eight kicks, including conversions, in the evening. The England captain managed to nail a couple of his conversion kicks between the bars from spots with not much angle. Farrell scored 20 points with his boots, tying for his personal record in a single World Cup game (he had 20 against Wales in 2015).
“We did what was needed,” Farrell said, when asked about his team’s strong performance in the second half. “We had the lead and obviously Australia were throwing everything at us again. We wanted to play the game at our pace, not theirs, and thankfully we did that in the second half.”
England head coach Eddie Jones, who guided Australia into the 2003 World Cup final yet fell to England, became the first Australian head coach to defeat his native country in a World Cup match. There were 12 previous unsuccessful attempts.
The 59-year-old showed confidence, saying that his team “can still improve.”
“We were absolutely at our best. Australia started the game fast, played superbly the first 20, we had to hang in there, hung in there, got a bit of momentum back and got the points that we needed, I’m so pleased for the players that worked to get this result.”
On Saturday, England joined New Zealand, Australia and France as the only nations that have scored more than 1,500 points at the World Cup.
Australia, a two-time World Cup champion, is one of the three teams that have advanced to the knockout stage in all nine World Cups along with New Zealand and France, while winning six of those matches. But this wasn’t one of those days.
Australia head coach Michael Cheika insisted that his side played “quite well,” but gave credit to England, which displayed a solid defensive effort by limiting the physically superior Aussies to just two tries and 16 points. England made 181 tackles while Australia had 78. Australia conceded 18 turnovers to England’s eight, which was perhaps one of the reasons the Wallabies lost the contest. It was the most points allowed for Australia in a World Cup match.
“We gave away two intercepts, and they defended well, like you’ve got to,” Cheika said. “The better team won. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to suck that up sometimes. I was supposed to get this done, for the people here, for Australians. It’s so disappointing.”
When asked if his players showed samurai spirit, Jones described samurai as “adept with a calm head” and perform “full of aggression.”
The ex-Japan national team head coach said that his team was “pretty much like that today.”
“But again, the challenge is how we get better,” he said. “Because there’s always better samurai around the corner. So we’ll continue to get better.”
England will play its semifinal game at International Stadium Yokohama next Saturday.