England beat Australia 32-15 to clinch the Cook Cup in a thrilling, back-and-forth match in front of a thunderous Twickenham atmosphere. The game was characterised with numerous penalties being awarded to both sides, a symptom of the battling style both sides chose to play.
England mounted early pressure, with Manu Tuilagi covering every blade of grass, keeping Eddie Jones’ promise that his selection on the wing would benefit the team. Australia were the first on the scoreboard though, with Bevan Rodd punished for blocking Michael Hooper. James O’Connor made no mistake, to give visitors an early lead. England answered back quickly, with Freddie Steward darting past two tackles for the try. Owen Farrell converted to put the Red and Whites on the front foot.
Tuilagi’s fine wing work came into play again when he caused problems for the Australia midfield, allowing Rodd and Sam Underhill to provide a threat. England won a penalty after an Australian infringement in the resulting ruck, and Farrell hit the target again.
Australia roared back from the restart, putting Steward under pressure. Courtney Lawes was penalised for a side-entry, and the away side took their chance from the penalty. The free-scoring game excited the Twickenham crowd, who were at their deafening best throughout. Tuilagi once again bullied his way through midfield before Hooper came off his feet in an attempt to win the ball. Farrell kept his perfect penalty record intact to further England’s advantage. The kicker found himself on the wrong end just after, being caught offside and giving O’Connor a penalty chance he duly took with aplomb.
Penalties were being conceded with regularity now, and Tom Wright was the next culprit. The winger received a yellow card for a shoulder to the head of Jamie George. Farrell once again made the resulting kick count, as England warmed to their task.
Just before the end of the half there was a moment of defensive brilliance, when George broke out of the England maul and got over the line. Nic White incredibly dived over the line with him and removed the ball from his grasp before it could hit the Twickenham turf, a truly brilliant last-ditch defensive action.
Australia had the ideal start to the second half, after Maro Itoje came off his feet and O’Connor put the penalty away to make it a one-point game. The game stuck to its pattern though, and England did not have to wait long for their own penalty. Angus Bell tipped Lawes and Farrell once again brought home the three points. His illustrious run ended shortly afterwards, pulling a 35-yarder wide after Australia gave away a holding-on penalty.
A well-synchronised scrum from England drew another penalty, and Farrell got his eye back in to make it 22-15 with fifteen minutes remaining. Raffi Quirke came on for a well-deserved debut, becoming England’s youngest scrum-half for 90 years.
Farrell went off injured, a worry for England as he left the field limping. Marcus Smith took responsibility for England’s next penalty, and made no mistake to give his side a ten-point lead. There was late drama when Sam Simmonds powered through to the roar of the Twickenham crowd to score a last minute try on the counter, sealing a wonderful England win. The try was converted and Eddie Jones can reflect on an excellent victory.