It was a truly heroic English defensive effort that kept an ebullient Australian attack at bay for the majority of the match and all the players walked away with considerable credit for their efforts. Here, we give the starting XV scores based out of 10, with 10 being truly exceptional.
1) Mako Vunipola – 8
As a scrummager Vunipola has grown and grown over the past two tests with England and indeed across the season with Saracens. Now that he has built on his strengths as a traditional prop, he can couple this with his brutal ball carries that add an extra dimension to England’s attack.
2) Dylan Hartley – 7
As a leader Hartley has been superb since he was a controversal choice to take over from Chris Robshaw. As a player he is solid but unspectacular, with his lineout throwing always accurate and his hooking an added bonus to a dominant England pack. He will continue to face pressure from Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie, but for now he is England’s greatest captain since the imperious Martin Johnson.
3) Dan Cole – 8
Once again – despite what Bob Dwyer might think – Dan Cole had his opposite number on toast at scrum time and Australia paid the price for a scrum being shunted back at a rate of knots. Although Cole is not an effective ball carrier, his ability to win ball at the breakdown, particularly when Australia were within inches of scoring, is so important to this team. Hopefully next week he can keep his shirt on.
4) Maro Itoje – 9
When will this young lad lose a game? What a phenomenally talented player. He has helped to take both Saracens and England to a new level since his introduction and has the uncanny, Richard Hill-esque ability to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. A constant threat at the lineout, a menace at the breakdown and such a clever player, Eddie Jones will be struggling to come up with any more car analogies for Itoje now.
5) George Kruis – 7
Not his best game in an England shirt and came under pressure at the lineout from Australia, but he dealt with it well. He was fantastic in defence and at the heart of an amazing defensive effort.
6) Chris Robshaw – 9
He’s not flashy, but he is so, so important to this England team. Like Itoje he has an incredible engine on him and in defence he is just a constant workhorse, putting in tackle after tackle. His clearance kick to get England out of their 22 late in the game showed he is still an important leader in a growing collection of Hartley’s lieutenants.
7) James Haskell – 8
Not quite up there with his performance from the last weekend, but another impressive shift nonetheless. Haskell is finally using his physicality to good effect and like his partner-in-crime Robshaw, was a rock in defence. According to the stats, the Wasps openside put in an astonishing 23 tackles.
8) Billy Vunipola – 8
A constant threat with the ball in hand and such a difficult man to bring down; defences have to concentrate on Vunipola so much that it opens up opportunities for others in attack. He controlled the ball at the base of the scrum incredibly well and put in a huge shift as part of England’s defensive effort.
9) Ben Youngs – 7
Another solid effort from the scrum-half with some excellent box kicks, but also a few errors that needlessly put England under pressure at times. Neither he nor Danny Care have ready properly laid claim to the number 9 as of yet.
10) George Ford – 9
Such a smart player and for one so small he is willing to put his body on the line time and time again. Watch the replay of the game and focus on Ford in defence. He makes tackle after tackle on some of the biggest men on the field and never takes a backwards step. His clever reading of the game ensured England were in Australia’s 22 whenever they could get the ball.
11) Jack Nowell – 7
Restored to the back line after an excellent opportunistic try in the dying moments of the first test, Nowell never put a foot wrong and like Watson on the other wing, put in a fantastic defensive shift. For such a small man he is surprisingly difficult to bring down.
12) Owen Farrell – 9
Such a reliable goal kicker and ice cool under pressure, his work in combination with George Ford is what is gelling England together as a unit. A ferocious force in defence and an increasingly smart player in attack, Owen Farrell looks set to keep the inside centre jersey until a genuinely world class contender emerges.
13) Jonathan Joseph – 7
Never really had much chance to get going in attack with England having so little territory and possession, but he showed how much he has grown as a defensive force and ensured Australia’s physicality in their back division never really paid dividends.
14) Anthony Watson – 7
Never really got much of a chance to touch the ball throughout the game, but like every player in the team he tackled his heart out for the whole game. He is very much England’s first choice for the right wing position now.
15) Mike Brown – 7
Mr Nasty is still not at his brilliant best but made some important tackles and kicks at times. A few errors that could have proved costly will nudge Eddie Jones’ attention back to Alex Goode, but it is still likely the Harlequins fullback will keep his place for the third and final test of the series.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena