England 40-16 Australia: Eddie Jones' side book first RWC semi-final since 2007
England will contest their semi-final against New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday October 26
By Michael Cantillon at Oita Stadium
Last Updated: 21/10/19 5:26pm
England booked a first Rugby World Cup semi-final place for 12 years on Saturday, courtesy of a hard-fought 40-16 victory over Australia in Oita's enclosed stadium.
The Wallabies had more than their fair share of the play, but England proved clinical with tries from Jonny May (two), Kyle Sinckler and Anthony Watson, as well as four Owen Farrell penalties - the skipper finishing 100 per cent off the tee.
Australia notched their points via a superb Marika Koroibete try and the boot of Christian Lealiifano (three penalties), but were outdone by England in the turnover stakes, which ultimately proved crucial.
Eddie Jones' side extended their winning run over the Wallabies to seven Tests - stretching back to the last World Cup in 2015 - and will now face New Zealand, who crushed Ireland 46-14, next Saturday in Yokohama for a place in the final.
Australia came flying out of the blocks but staunch English defence, which featured 30 tackles in the opening three minutes, kept them at bay. The fast start would see Australia register the opening points when Billy Vunipola was penalised for a high tackle and Lealiifano drove home from 38 metres for 3-0 on 12 minutes.
England's pressure in response told on 18 minutes down the left wing as May dived over on his 50th England appearance, with the Wallabies defence sucked narrow. Three minutes later, he scored again as Slade intercepted a David Pocock pass on his own 22, strode clear and intelligently clipped ahead - the Exeter Chief aware he did not have the pace to go all the way.
The bounce was kind for May, and he was too quick for Samu Kerevi, diving over. Farrell, as he did for the opener, converted exquisitely off the touchline.
Attempting another interception in a defensive position on 26 minutes, Slade was then caught offside and Lealiifano tapped over from close range to reduce the deficit to 14-6.
England responded with a penalty of their own, but Australia would have the final say of the half as Sinckler gave away a penalty for collapsing the scrum leaving the half-time score 17-9.
Three minutes into the second period, Koroibete finished a stunning move after Reece Hodge had found Jordan Petaia with a long, raking pass and the 19-year-old fed Koroibete with an inside ball - the Fiji-born wing proceeding to sear past England full-back Elliot Daly and score.
But England's response was instant. May and Watson made in-roads with incisive running, before Farrell produced a stunning flat miss-pass for Sinckler to take on the run and romp over the line.
Farrell extended the England lead to 11 points on 51 minutes before Australia twice turned down routine shots at goal for attacking set-pieces.
It all proved in vain when Sinckler ripped back possession from Naisarani metres from his own try-line before Genia knocked on at the next ruck near halfway after England's clearance kick.
Youngs knocked on in the act of attempting to score in the corner on 64 minutes, but the scrum-half had darted on penalty advantage, allowing Farrell to kick over three more points as a result of a Rory Arnold side-entry at the maul.
Farrell struck again off the tee after another Australia maul infringement with seven minutes left, before Watson claimed an intercept try off a long Beale pass late on to inflate the scoreline further. The final stages did bring about a potential worry for Jones though, as try-scorer May appeared to go straight down the tunnel with a hamstring injury.
Played under Oita's turtle-like, dome shaped roof, this was a peculiar game. Australia dominated possession (64 per cent), gained far more metres in attack (568m to England's 274m), made double the carries (151 to 71) and had more gain-line success (57 to 36).
England turned over ball in critical areas at crucial moments though and were more clinical in attack.
Jones' back-row of Curry, Underhill and Vunipola outshone Pocock, Hooper and Naisarani - ordinarily an area of huge strength for the Wallabies - and that won the Test.
That ability to turn over ball, protect it, and then unleash May, Slade, Tuilagi and Watson was match-defining.
Farrell's kicking - a concern against Argentina - was also exemplary. He did not look likely to miss from anywhere - form needed from a 10 to win a World Cup.
The flip side is that if England give as much possession to the All Blacks, they will almost certainly be beaten.
Give sides like Steve Hansen's that spell of time on the ball, that opportunity to gain metres and create line-breaks and defeat is a near-inevitability. An alternative game-plan is required.
Discipline will also be a concern for Jones, having conceded eight penalties but five within their own half.
And lastly, injuries. If May does have a hamstring complaint - having pulled up when chasing Koroibete back late on, iced it and then gone down the tunnel to leave England with 14 - that would be a disaster.
The wing is playing the rugby of his life.
Stat of the Test
Tweets of the day
Just the 16 points off on my first prediction. How good were England... 😳— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) October 19, 2019