England v Australia
Johnson upset with penalty count
PA Sport
November 15, 2008
Martin Johnson reacts during England's 28-14 loss to Australia at Twickenham, November 15 2008
Martin Johnson makes his feelings known at Twickenham © Getty Images

England manager Martin Johnson blamed individual errors for the 28-14 defeat to Australia and was frustrated with his side's second-half display.

England held the momentum at half-time, having just scored a Nick Easter try to trail by a point, but the Wallabies added two more penalties in the second half in reply to England's one, before Adam Ashley-Cooper dived over the line in the right corner and Matt Giteau converted with 12 minutes to go.

Johnson's men gave away 10 penalties in all, six of which were slotted over by fly-half Giteau and one by captain Stirling Mortlock - a monster of a kick from just inside the halfway line.

"We didn't make them work hard enough to score 28 points," said Johnson, who skippered England to victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup final. "We gave them eight penalties and they scored seven and that makes it very difficult.

"We went a little bit off script. Guys in the heat of the battle went with instinct and what they do week in, week out instead of sticking to what were trying to achieve and that was the frustrating thing.

"If you're doing one thing and 14 guys are doing something else that's when you get turnovers and mistakes - and we made far too many of those to keep the pressure on. We've got to trust ourselves and back ourselves.

"At half-time we really were where we wanted to be but in the second half we just didn't keep the pressure on. There was a tremendous amount of restarts and they slowed the tempo of the game down.

"But, you know, they've won by 14 points and they know how to win Test matches. They'll be ecstatic and rightly so."

Fly-half Danny Cipriani has been billed as England's next big thing, but he flattered to deceive at Twickenham, missing two conversions and an easy drop-goal chance early in the second half.

Two breakaways which failed to reap any points showed flashes of the 21-year-old's potential, however, and Johnson refused to criticise his performance.

"I think he's learning all the time what Test match rugby is all about," he said. "It's about how you handle the pressure of the field. We're together five weeks and then he's back to Wasps and will be playing in Europe.

"It's about finding out what being a full-time rugby player is all about. There are a lot of them doing that."

Johnson added, "We'll get together on Monday. The guys will be sore, they'll be frustrated, they'll be disappointed. But we've got to bounce back and put things right as best we can and be here next week."

Johnson's counterpart Robbie Deans was happy with the way his troops withstood the physical challenge, which contributed towards the Wallabies' first win at Twickenham since 2004.

"I'm delighted for the boys," he said. "They put in and they got the reward. A lot was asked of them. It was pretty brutal, direct and aggressive but they just kept turning up. They were asked a lot of questions but passed the test.

"Our kicking game was better today and we drew a stressed response, if you like, from England and that kept the scoreboard ticking over. There were opportunities for us to carry and finish but we were denied them and I guess we deserve credit for keeping the scoreboard ticking over.

"It doesn't concern us whether the points were penalties or tries. We'd prefer tries but those decisions are made by the opposition."

Captain Mortlock was delighted with the way his side played after the break, accelerating ahead of England with two more penalties and a converted try late on.

"I was very pleased with how we played after half-time," he said. "The focus was on being positive and looking to play and throughout the whole 80 minutes we did that. I had confidence in our scrum."

Much had been made of Australia's supposedly inferior scrum in the build-up to the game after it was dominated by England in last year's World Cup quarter-final, but prop Al Baxter enjoyed a superb game and turned over England's scrum twice.

"It's always very satisfying to do that," said Baxter. "The whole eight worked well and we felt it went very well today."

Hooker Lee Mears admitted England had plenty to work on. England led 14-12 early in the second half before the Wallabies pulled away to score 16 unanswered points.

"We are very disappointed, I thought we did some good stuff but were on the end of a tough game," Mears told Sky Sports 2.

"We were better than that (a 14-point loss) but on the day they executed well and every time they got in our half they ended with points. They were the better side on the day and won the game. They were more composed and did a better job.

"We did some good stuff but made some bad decisions which cost us. As always you have things to work on for next week."

Australia's Matt Giteau felt his side's experience was key. "England played smart rugby, we just looked to kick in behind and in the end it worked out for us," he said. "At times it felt we were losing the grip on the game a bit and we had to regroup."

Player Ratings:

  • England

    Andrew Sheridan: Failed to reproduce his destructive best as England struggled to dominate the scrum. 6

    Lee Mears: Lively performance from England's hooker, particularly in the loose, but out-scrummaged by his opposite number. 7

    Phil Vickery: Guilty of conceding careless penalties and struggled to keep his binding at the scrum. 6

    Steve Borthwick: Should have stamped out England's indiscipline and anonymous in the loose. 5

    Tom Palmer: Brought in to add bulk to the second row but failed to make an impact. 5

    Tom Croft: Another guilty of indiscipline and conceded penalty for handling in the scrum at a key moment. 6

    Tom Rees: Leads by example. Harshly penalised at the breakdown early in the game but gave George Smith a run for his money. 7

    Nick Easter: A physical performance from the number eight whose handling game is improving. Also drove over for the try. 7

    Danny Care: Livewire who keeps opponents on their toes but his inexperience is still being exposed. 6

    Danny Cipriani: Two searing breaks showed attacking potential but failed to take control and kicking was poor. 5

    Ugo Monye: Showed flashes of pace but had few opportunities as England struggled to get the ball wide. 6

    Riki Flutey: Grew into the game and made one late break but England's creative hub have much to improve. 6

    Jamie Noon: Another dominant defensive performance from Noon, who kept Ryan Cross in check. 7

    Paul Sackey: Little opportunity with the ball in hand but solid in defence and stopped Mortlock scoring under the posts. 6

    Delon Armitage: Another assured performance from Armitage but was frustrated at England's failure to finish their chances. 7

    Replacements: Matt Stevens (34-41mins for Sheridan; 55mins for Vickery): 7, James Haskell (59mins for Easter): 7, Michael Lipman (65mins for Rees): 6, Simon Shaw (65mins for Palmer): 6, Harry Ellis (67mins for Care): 6, Dylan Hartley (70mins for Mears): 6, Toby Flood (72mins for Cipriani): 6

  • Australia

    Benn Robinson: His aggression has improved the Australian front row. 7

    Stephen Moore: Named official man of the match as the Australian scrum made a mockery of pre-match predictions. 8

    Al Baxter: Laughed off his rivalry with Sheridan - and then saw him off on the field. 7

    Mark Chisholm: Big shoes to fill after Dan Vickerman's retirement and living up to the challenge. 6

    Nathan Sharpe: Charged down a kick inside England's 22 and an unlucky bounce prevented him scoring a try. 7

    Hugh McMenimen: Brought in to add muscle to Wallabies back row and ensured no repeat of the Marseille breakdown massacre. 6

    George Smith: Rated by his coach as the best open-side in world rugby and produced another physical performance. 7

    Richard Brown: Did not get a chance to make his mark before going off injured. 6

    Luke Burgess: More established on the Test scene than Danny Care and won the battle of the scrum-halves. 7

    Matt Giteau: Scored 20 points and teed up the try but not at his creative best as England closed down Australia's options. 7

    Drew Mitchell: Not a day for the back three but kicked intelligently into space. 6

    Stirling Mortlock: A powerful display from the Wallabies captain in attack and defence capped by monster hit on Flutey. 8

    Ryan Cross: Showed flashes of pace and great hands in the build-up to the try but well-patrolled by Noon. 6

    Peter Hynes: Strong cover defence epitomised by his try-saving tackle to stop a Cipriani break. 6

    Adam Ashley -Cooper: Right place at the right time to score the Wallabies try to always a threat with the ball. 6

    Replacements: Wycliff Palu (for Brown, 45): 6

    © Scrum.com
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