England crush Aussies to reach World Cup semis
Wing Jonny May produced a quickfire double and captain Owen Farrell was perfect with the boot as England stormed into the World Cup semifinals Saturday with a thumping 40-16 win over Australia.
May celebrated his 50th England cap with his 26th and 27th tries in Oita, Japan, while Farrell kicked 20 points for England, who equalled their biggest-ever margin of victory against their fierce rivals and move on to face either New Zealand or Ireland in the last four.
Fears England could come into the match undercooked, after their final pool game against France was washed out by last week’s devastating typhoon, ultimately proved unfounded.
May’s early salvo and Farrell’s perfect eight-from-eight kicking meant England exorcised the demons of their traumatic early World Cup exit four years ago — one of the lowest points in English rugby history.
It also extended England’s winning run over Australia to seven matches dating back to that tournament when they condemned the hosts to a first-round exit with a 33-13 drubbing at Twickenham.
England have now beaten Australia at the quarterfinal stage on all three occasions the Wallabies have failed to reach the last four, after 1995 and 2007.
After an early Christian Lealiifano penalty, a slow-burner burst into life with May scoring twice in three minutes to put England in the driving seat.
Henry Slade, making his return from a knee injury, had threatened before England broke through on 18 minutes. After securing good lineout ball, Farrell deftly switched play to the left and after a couple more phases, Tom Curry’s quick hands fed May to dive over in the corner.
Moments later, England’s prolific winger was again the beneficiary following more fine work from Slade, who picked off a David Pocock pass and sent a clever grubber kick into the same corner for May to finish clinically.
After a close-range Farrell penalty had extended England’s advantage, Lealiifano nailed his third three-pointer of the half to reduce the lead at the break to 17-9.
The masters of knockout rugby, Australia came out firing at the start of the second half with an explosive burst from winger Marika Koroibete putting the Wallabies right back in it. Back came England, though, with a brilliant pass from Farrell teeing up prop Kyle Sinckler to bulldoze over for his first Test try.
Farrell stretched England’s lead back to 11 points with another penalty before Sinckler came up with a huge steal to arrest fierce Australia pressure. Two more Farrell three-pointers effectively extinguished any hopes of a late Australia fightback before Anthony Watson’s late intercept try confirmed the exit of the two-time champions.
After the final gong, England’s players went on a lap of honour to the sound of “London Calling” looking ahead to to a date in Yokohama next weekend.