The Australian Kangaroos secured a narrow four point victory over England in their second match of the 2014 Four Nations tournament, 16 points to 12 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park in front of a crowd of 20,585.
Rabbitohs and Australian fullback Greg Inglis scored the winning try, and saved a try with a vital play in the final minutes after a last ditch effort by the English, keeping the Australians’ Four Nations tournament alive.
With both sides wearing traditional jerseys to commemorate the Rorke’s Drift Test match played between the nations 100 years ago, it was sure to be on for young and old from the opening whistle.
English prop George Burgess took it to the Australian forwards from the opening kick off, making metres up the middle for his side to mount early pressure.
Liam Farrell was placed on report in the sixth minute of play for an attempted ‘chicken wing’ tackle on Inglis as he brought the ball out from his own line. Inglis was slow to rise, but rise he did and he took his place back in the custodian position.
Two minutes later Sean O’Loughlin was placed on report for a trip on Cameron Smith, giving the Aussies some great field position. The Aussies could not capitalise, and then Greg Bird was put on report for what the referee described as a dangerous tackle.
The Kangaroos were the first team to score in the 16th minute of play when Greg Bird split the English defence and put Michael Jennings away for a long-range try. Jennings gave the video referee something to look at with a dubious grounding of the ball, but the four-pointer was awarded. Cameron Smith missed a simple conversion adjacent to the posts, giving the Aussies a four-nil lead midway through the first half.
Thomas Burgess came on for his first stint for England after 25 minutes and made an immediate impact with his straight up-and-down charges at the Kangaroos’ line.
The English posted their first try in the 29th minute of the match when Kallum Watkins touched down on the right hand side. The try was really set up a few plays earlier when winger Ryan Hall went on a 70 metre charge through the middle of the Australian defence, offloading to hooker Daryl Clark who was dragged into touch by Inglis. The referee penalised Inglis, and from the ensuing plays England would score out wide on the opposite side of the field. Gareth Widdop converted from out wide to give the visitors a two-point advantage.
England crossed for their second try four minutes later when they capitalised on an Inglis error under the high ball which gave them a repeat set. From the next two plays they swung the ball to the left, finding space on the left flank for Hall to score. Widdop kicked the conversion to give England a 12-4 lead at the half time break.
Boyd Cordner blew the Australians first attempt to score in the second half, causing an obstruction which denied Greg Inglis a try.
Ben Hunt made up for Cordner’s misdemeanour when he crossed for Australia’s second try in the 57th minute. Close to the line, Cameron Smith darted to the left from dummy half and put in a deft grubber kick with Hunt chasing through to score. Smith made no mistake with the kick this time around, reducing the deficit to just two points with a tick over 20 minutes left in the match.
In the 63rd minute, Daly Cherry-Evans sprang to life for the first time in the match, breaking through the English defence and putting Inglis away for his 25th try for Australia, giving the Kangaroos the lead at the back end of the game. Smith converted to set up a four-point advantage.
The urgency in the English side stepped up another level in the final ten minutes, and it was Greg Inglis that saved the day when he shovelled the ball dead in the 79th minute, despite all sorts of pressure from one of England’s best performers, Ryan Hall. A battered and bruised Australia played out the final set and secured the four point win and a chance of winning their way through to the Four Nations Final with a win over Toa Samoa next weekend.
For the Rabbitohs, Inglis pulled off some vital plays throughout the match and Dylan Walker was again strong in defence. The pairing of George Burgess and Thomas Burgess battered the Australians throughout the game, but could not get the England side over the line against a desperate Australian outfit.
Both sides will have tough hit outs next weekend as they try and secure a place in the Four Nations Final, with England set to play New Zealand and Australia taking on Toa Samoa.
Australia 16 (Michael Jennings, Ben Hunt, Greg Inglis tries; Cameron Smith 2 goals)
England 12 (Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall tries; Gareth Widdop 2 goals)