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Who starred and who flopped as England beat Australia

Australia had the possession and territory to win their series against England but the tourists provided the match winners. Who starred and who stumbled in the Wallabies’ gut-wrenching defeat?

Eddie Jones out coached Dave Rennie, Taniela Tupou was dominated by Ellis Genge once more, and captain Courtney Lawes, drawing inspiration from Aussies talking smack, was a colossus as England were worthy winners of the third Test and the series in Sydney.

After going 1-0 down in Perth, England approached the remaining two matches with a World Cup knockout game intensity and their desperation was enough against an Australian attack lacking inspiration.

The biggest winner of all from the series was Jones, who was questioned all the way, but along with the 2016 clean sweep has won five out of six Tests against the Wallabies in Australia and 10 of 11 overall.

“We had Eddie heading to Australia with his career in doubt – was he heading to Barbados to sit under a coconut tree and watch cricket?” said The Roar expert Jim Tucker on the instant reaction podcast.

“Now Eddie Jones is locked in, he’s going to the World Cup, he’s smiling, top of the world with Fleet Street media. That’s huge for England and Eddie’s stocks.

“This was a series where he said the Brisbane Test and Sydney Test were finals atmosphere to take to a World Cup. Australia had two chances to win this series and they didn’t get it done in either. Australians never play enough sudden death footy, and the Europeans are steeled more for the sudden death games.”

‘You look at leadership’

While there were several decent performances from Australian players, the nature of the defeat – bashing on the door without being able to break it down, could have repercussions as the Wallabies head for tough Tests in Argentina before assignments against South Africa and the All Blacks.

“This is the kind of loss when you look back and replay it and the players will do this maybe for years and say that was right in our hands,” said Harry Jones on the instant reaction podcast.

“When you camp out in someone else’s 22 for that long but just can’t get over the line, there was a lack of inventiveness, a lack of bloody-mindedness, a lack of spatial awareness, and sometimes a lack of context. What are we doing here? What’s the time? You look at leadership.”

While Michael Hooper remains a key man, is it time for him to relinquish the captaincy? Harry Jones believes so.

“I’ve never been a Michael Hooper basher – the guy plays with more heart than anyone,” said Harry.

Nic White of the Wallabies passes during game two of the International Test Match series between the Australia Wallabies and England at Suncorp Stadium on July 09, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Nic White of the Wallabies passes during game two of the International Test Match series between the Australia Wallabies and England at Suncorp Stadium on July 09, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“I just feel there were moments in this match that the captaincy was lacking a little bit. I think Hooper should continue to play but not be the captain and find someone who is a bit more inspirational in terms of the verbals.

“At times they would continue the same thing over and over and it was too predictable for England to work out.

“It’s going to sound ridiculous but I would probably make Nic White captain. He has tactical awareness, makes a lot of good decisions and it might calm him down a bit.”

In contrast, Lawes, who was preferred to Owen Farrell as captain, was the perfect choice for England. Vocal on and off the park, he led from the front at every step.

Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell, talking on Stan Sport at halftime, talked up Hooper’s leadership, but more for how he plays.

“Just his work rate is unbelievable,” said Mitchell. “Look, he’s grown in his position as a leader in terms of how he speaks and addresses his team. He’s just a leader by action.”

Can Taniela regain his mojo?

Australia’s talismanic prop was a disappointment after coming in for the last two matches of the series. Is the issue lingering concerns over his calf injury, or worse a fall in motivation? Or maybe it was just that he was out battled by Ellis Genge.

When he was picked for Brisbane Tupou said he hadn’t missed playing and needed the eight-week break that injury brought. He was slow to get moving in Brisbane and poor again in Sydney.

“I was very disappointed in Taniela Tupou, I don’t think he had a great game,” said Brett McKay on The Roar podcast.

“He didn’t carry particularly well, threw a couple of bad passes that left Australia in tricky situations, got pinged at the scrum a couple of times. I’m not convinced he’s 100 percent fit.

“We’ll see. The Wallabies head to Argentina next and and he’s going to have to be right over there.”

Tucker agreed: “We need our best scrummaging in Argentina and Michael Cheika will be waiting for the ambush.

“Taniela, to me it’s more reflective of where my man of the series comes from and that’s the engine room side. I thought Ellis Genge was absolutely outstanding setting the tone. With Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola, I’d have all three of those ahead of a fancy Dan back as player of the series.”

What to make of Reece Hodge?

Hodge’s performance split the podcast panel with Brett McKay saying he did what was expected of him. Harry and Jim were far from impressed.

“He just doesn’t give you enough,” said Tucker. “He is, and I’m comparing him to other outstanding fullbacks around the world, and he’s a notch below. He can kick balls 50 metres and so on but he’s not that punchy, thrustfull fullback to win a World Cup and that’s what we’re talking about – the elite players to win a World Cup or a semifinal.”

Hodge had two moments of poor execution and both were costly. In the first half Tom Wright was flying towards the tryline when Hodge passed over his head and into touch. Then later in the half he kicked out on the full, leading directly to England points when the Wallabies should have been consolidating.

Harry Jones added: “Reece Hodge is one of those unlucky players. I don’t like unlucky players on my team because they stay unlucky. Even the kick on the full he seemed befuddled.”

Hodge wasn’t alone in having an off night. Harry Wilson won’t be happy with his first Test in 11 months, and his penalty concession early in the second half summed up a tough night.

Tate McDermott replaced White on the hour but was unable to produce the magic needed against a resolute defensive line. Noah Lolesio dropped the ball that let his opposite No.10 Marcus Smith romp away for a decisive try and looked again like the youngster he is.

Ellis Genge, Nick Isiekweand Ollie Chessum of England celebrate winning game three of the International Test match series between the Australia Wallabies and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground on July 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

 (Photo by Jason McCawley – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

And Rennie delayed his replacements too long, including the puzzling decision to leave Hodge on and only bring Suli Vunivalu into the fray for the final three minutes off the bench.

Rennie didn’t even own the decisions in the post-match press conference, handing that responsibility over to assistants.

“We’ve got guys who are up in the box with us watching individuals see how they go and then if they’ve got plenty in them, we make those decisions based on how we think they’re travelling,” said Rennie of his late backline moves.

“Hunter was going pretty well and so we left him out a little bit longer. Tom has been excellent. Marika, when you’re trying to steal a game in the last five minutes. you’re relying on guys who have done it for you in the past. There’s no doubt every game you query whether you got a guy on early enough or left someone out too long. Who knows?”

Is wasn’t all bad, right?

Samu Kerevi was immense as usual and he will be sorely missed for the Argentina matches as he competes at the Commonwealth Games in sevens.

“If you imagine the Wallabies without Kerevi tonight it would have been very grim,” said Harry Jones. “There were moments when he singlehandedly took five English players on his back and carried them. He just needed a little bit of help.”

Former All Black Sonny Bill Williams was also full of praise for Kerevi.

“I want to talk about the growth in Kerevi’s game,” he said on Stan Sport. “Not only can he run, he’s kicked, but he can pass too. Just having that – a guy like that on the ball, being able to open up space for his outside men is special. Arguably the best number 12 in the game at the moment, Kerevi.”

Nick Frost played 80 minutes on starting debut and showed considerable promise.

“He set the tone and showed presence,” said former Wallabies lock Justin Harrison. “You don’t have to wait to play 50 Tests to show up for the Wallabies. Nick Frost is showing up tonight. You look across the park at Billy Vunipola, you have to match that intensity.”

Tucker was also impressed: “You have to say first starting Test, plays 80 minutes, bang.”

He said Frost’s first involvement, charging down a Danny Care kick was “a great show of intent.

“He made a couple of runs where he timed his gallops into space. Late in the game when they were looking for a lineout target it was Nick Frost. A number of key areas for a young player at the beginning of his career.

“His cleaning and some of that big boy play will develop, but what a project player to have our hands on.”

Tom Wright was also among the Australians’ best, scoring a try, although beaten by Freddie Steward for an England score to close the first half.

“Tom Wright was excellent, every time he got the ball you weren’t quite sure what was going to happen, lots of breaks, finished that try so well in the first half and he’s done his future selection opportunities no harm at all,” said McKay.



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