England (3) 13
Penalties: Farrell (2)
Australia (17) 33
Tries: Foley (2), Giteau
Conversions: Foley (3)
Penalties: Foley (4)
England have become the first host nation to be knocked out of the Rugby World Cup at the pool stage following a comprehensive 33-13 defeat to Australia. Bernard Foley scored the bulk of the Wallabies' points on a chastening evening at Twickenham, notching both of his tries in the first half and remaining steady from the tee to quell a second-half fightback from Stuart Lancaster's side, beaten by Wales last weekend, who can no longer advance to the quarter-finals regardless of their result against minnows Uruguay on 10 October.
The inquests following such a woeful campaign are sure to be prolonged and brutal, with Lancaster himself admitting in the build-up that his reputation was on the line in a do-or-die encounter. Along with coaching team Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt, the 45-year-old was handed a six-year contract extension less than 12 months ago to secure the quartet up until 2020, yet it is difficult to see him remaining in the post in light of a desperately mediocre showing that will no doubt lead many to demand a root-and-branch review into the state of English rugby.
England were fortunate not to concede in the first four minutes, when the chance of a penalty was wasted and Mike Brown caught the ball with his foot in touch just metres from the try-line. The spiky full-back quickly atoned for his error with a well-disguised big hit that caused Israel Folau to spill possession as he looked to score. Foley then kicked his first points of the evening after Jonny May was caught offside and Australia were forced to introduce Kurley Beale far earlier than they would have expected due to Rob Horne sustaining an injury to his left arm.
Owen Farrell answered back with a kick of his own after the visitors were adjudged to have collapsed a scrum, but the impressive Wallabies, otherwise dominant at the set-piece, were in no mood to sit back as wave after wave of attack eventually culminated in Foley making a decisive line break following good work from Will Genia and selling an effective dummy before breaking the attempted tackles of Geoff Parling and Brown to score.
Joe Launchbury later did excellently to charge down Genia's kick in a dangerous position, but Farrell lost his footing at the vital moment before he could attempt to race forward and collect his nudge forward. Four minutes later, Australia silenced the home crowd once more. Foley and Beale combined to devastating effect with clever passing before the former went over for the second time. Suspicions over the legitimacy of the assisting pass were quickly vanquished by the Television Match Official (TMO), who ruled that the ball had not travelled forward.
Foley proved reliable with the boot to secure a commanding 17-3 half-time lead, although the influential Michael Hooper, who dominated the breakdown alongside fellow natural openside David Pocock, was very fortunate not to receive a yellow card just before the break as he failed to engage his arms during a tackle on Brown.
Lancaster introduced George Ford for the second 40, shifting Farrell to inside centre alongside Brad Barritt and moving Jonathan Joseph to the wing after May appeared to injure himself while running back onto the pitch. Australia took their chance to extend the lead after Joe Marler was pinged for not driving straight, a topic that was widely discussed by ex-referees and the media alike in the aftermath of the defeat to Wales, and arguably England's best attack of the game up to that point was thwarted as Foley accidentally knocked on while trying to intercept a pass from Joseph.
The decision to drop Ford in the first place in favour of a defensive and cautious midfield last weekend initially caused much consternation. Those who felt upset by his removal were vindicated shortly before the hour mark, when his vision created a nice pass for Launchbury. The towering Wasps lock then fed Watson, who burst clear to give the nation a semblance of hope that an unlikely comeback was indeed achievable.
That feeling was increased with 15 minutes remaining as a loose pass from Nick Phipps in the opposition 22 led to a Farrell penalty that brought England back within one score. Momentum at this stage had long since shifted, but it was brought to a grinding halt as the Saracens fly-half was eventually sent to the sin bin for a shoulder tackle on a man without the ball. Somehow replacement Sam Burgess avoided a similar punishment for a neck-high takedown of Hooper in the same incident.
Being reduced to 14 men predictably doused any remaining threat that England posed and the ignominy of an early exit from an admittedly tough Pool A was compounded at the death as veteran Matt Giteau touched down in the right corner following a brilliant Australian break that saw Adam Ashley-Cooper suck in his defender before providing a timely offload.