Saints boys shine as England hit back to beat Australia
A quartet of Saints helped ensure it wouldn’t be Australia day at Twickenham as England recovered to claim a 20-13 win.
Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Dylan Hartley all stepped onto the hallowed turf for the first time since Saints’ Premiership final defeat to Leicester.
And they were to leave it with a much better feeling on that difficult May day as the Wallabies were beaten.
Lawes, Wood and Dickson started, while Hartley emerged from the bench in what was a bewildering encounter.
Australia had looked to be cruising at 13-6 up with England swaying like some of the fans who had partaken in the matchday hospitality.
But second-half scores from captain Chris Robshaw and fly-half Owen Farrell, who had a mixed day with the boot, ensured the evening sun set on Australia’s hopes of victory.
The Wallabies had shown intent from the off as flying full-back Israel Folau attempted to threaten, but Joel Tomkins, who had clearly been taking lessons from Saints and Lions star George North, dumped the Aussie on the ground.
England got over Folau to stifle him and win a penalty, taking the lead through Farrell’s boot.
Australia hit back soon after as the England lineout, controlled by Wood and Lawes faltered, the flanker dropping the ball to give the Wallabies possession they used to earn a penalty.
Quade Cooper made no mistake with the tee kick from wide right before Farrell failed at the other end after Dickson’s opposite number Will Genia was caught offside.
And the Saracens fly-half failed to make amends minutes later as his kick again went to the left of the posts after the England pack had pushed Australia aside to win a penalty.
The Red Rose’s fowards were having plenty of joy, winning three successive penalties from the Wallabies, but Farrell wasn’t as on point with the boot.
His fourth kick of the afternoon hit the left upright, leaving Saints fans watching the game longing for the metronomic Stephen Myler, who has missed just four of 31 kicks in the Premiership this season.
Farrell finally began to banish those thoughts as he finally landed his second penalty of the day, with the visitors continually on the wrong end of referee George Clancy’s whistle.
But the Wallabies, with the class of Folau and Genia in their side, had plenty to offer in attack and those players were part of the move that saw Matt Toomua go over.
Cooper added the extras and the men in gold led 10-6 with 11 minutes to go before the break.
That lead was to get wider almost immediately as Billy Twelvetrees, trampled on by Toomua on the way to the line, offended and Cooper slotted the penalty.
At that point it was easy to imagine Luther Burrell sitting in front of his TV, scratching his head as rival for the 12 shirt Twelvetrees attempted recover after a tough few minutes.
Australia headed in at half-time with the swirling Twickenham wind in their sails, but the weather was to deny them a further three points straight after the interval as a a breeze pushed Cooper’s penalty past the posts.
England were crying out for the kind of spark Saints wing North gave the Lions against the Aussies during the summer and impressive Harlequins full-back Mike Brown tried to provide it, beating men at will in his own 22 to relieve some pressure.
As North showed, Australia aren’t keen on big No.11s running at them and after England’s incumbent of that shirt Marland Yarde made a rapid break, the home team had their try.
A phalanx of England players rushed to charge down Genia’s kick and skipper Robshaw picked up to score.
Farrell levelled matters at 13-13 and he then took his team clear, finding a gap to surge through the opposition defence and touch down to the delight of the Twickenham crowd.
The Saracens man made it 20-13 with a successful conversion and the stadium was rocking.
Cooper failed to cut the gap with a skewed penalty attempt and his side were unable to get any further points back as England were carried home by their appreciative faithful.
England: Brown; Ashton, Tomkins, Twelvetrees (Flood 66), Yarde; Farrell, Dickson (B Youngs 55); M Vunipola (Marler 55), T Youngs (Hartley 55), Cole (Wilson 66), Launchbury (Attwood 75), Lawes, Wood, Robshaw (c), B Vunipola (Morgan 66).
Replacements not used: Foden.
Australia: Folau; Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Toomua, Cummins; Cooper, Genia (White 66); Slipper, Moore (Fainga’a 68), Alexander, Timani (Douglas 49), Horwill, Fardy, Hooper, Mowen (c).
Replacements not used: Robinson, Kepu, McCalman, Leali’ifano, Foley.