Coach Michael Cheika has lamented the Wallabies’ inability to put together a complete 80-minute performance after a second-half slump against England at Twickenham.
Leading 16-13 after an excellent first-half display, Australia were unable to continue after halftime as Eddie Jones’ side stormed to a 37-21 victory to secure a 14th successive win and remain unbeaten in 2016.
Despite the lopsided look to the scoreline, it was the tourists who came racing out of the blocks to largely dominate a breathless opening stanza.
After overcoming the early setback of a missed Bernard Foley penalty, the Wallabies laid siege to the English line with Tevita Kuridrani twice being denied by the video referee either side of a Sefa Naivalu try.
A successful Foley penalty extended the lead to 10-0 before Owen Farrell added a pair of three-pointers with the boot to reduce the deficit to four points.
But in an ominous sign for Cheika’s side, England scored from an Australia error when Nick Phipps’ errant pass to Sekope Kepu was toed forward by Farrell for Jonathan Joseph to outpace Mike Hooper and score under the posts.
Farrell’s conversion gave England a three-point lead before Foley bisected the uprights twice to give the Wallabies a 16-13 advantage at the break.
However, that was to be the last time Cheika’s side led with England crossing through Marland Yarde’s try and a questionable five-pointer from Ben Youngs who scored from a quick tap and run following what appeared to be a forward pass from the back of the scrum.
Farrell’s conversion and a third penalty effectively ended the game at 30-16 before Kefu, showing some outstanding footwork, gave the Wallabies a flicker of hope only for Foley to miss the sideline conversion attempt.
But any chance of a dramatic fightback ended 10 minutes from time when Dane Haylett-Petty was sin-binned for using his shoulder in a tackle on Mike Brown and late-on Joseph added his second after hauling in David Pocock’s loose pass to sprint unchallenged over the line.
“Everyone knows the game goes for 80 minutes so you have to play both halves as best you can,” Cheika said.
“We’ve played some great rugby over the year and we’ve played some poor rugby, and the second half was in the middle.
“The first was good, but we needed to score more points and we had a lot of opportunities down there.
“We got a few penalties but we needed another try to go further ahead. In the second half we needed to react to stop the momentum that England created.”
Cheika refused to use some questionable refereeing from South African whistleblower Jaco Peyper as an excuse and although it was the ninth time in 15 matches he’ tasted defeat this year, he said there were reasons to be positive given the relative inexperience of his squad.
“There were obviously a few decisions that we wouldn’t have agreed with, but in the overall context of the game we needed to work out how we were going to break their momentum in the second half,” he said.
“They play a relatively conservative style to put you under pressure and we know that.
“And we did give away a couple of tries off a dropped ball and a quick tap where we turned our backs which is unforgivable.
“Even with a few decisions like that … we had opportunities to break the momentum but we made errors and it cost us.
“I’m very positive about the team as a whole. Seeing the improvements, we’re scoring tries that we wouldn’t have scored last year.
“We’re making the investments that we should have made in 2008-2009.”