Coach's View: Turnovers to blame for the seven-day turnaround

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The Independent Online

After a degree of over-reaction in victory last week, at least among certain commentators, let us hope we can all keep this defeat in perspective.

After a degree of over-reaction in victory last week, at least among certain commentators, let us hope we can all keep this defeat in perspective.

Yesterday's was a patchy performance by England in which they played terribly loosely for 40 minutes, then got an iron grip on the game - before falling away at the death. But the level of performance was not that different to the previous Saturday. The key variable, over which England have no control, was the intensity of the opposition's play.

The story of the game can be seen in a breakdown of the turnover statistics. In the first half, England coughed the ball up 10 times while in possession - as well as conceding three penalties when they took the ball into the ruck. Along with a woeful display of goal kicking and one or two missed tackles and line-outs this allowed the Wallabies to surge into a 15-0 lead without having to play outstandingly well. England were simply knocked out of their stride. One-and-a-half games in to a new regime this was perhaps no bad thing.

But the first 30 minutes of the second half saw a complete turnaround. During this period, only one piece of possession was turned over. With such control, England were able to cross for three tries and establish a narrow lead. But in the last 10 minutes - when it really counts - the old problems re-emerged. Four bits of possession and a completely unnecessary penalty were conceded - game, set and match to the men in gold.

This analysis might seem a wee bit on the simplistic side. But at the very top level, assuming you can win it in the first place, then ball control is vital. That became such a problem very early in the second quarter that the worst offender, Henry Paul, was substituted at an embarrassingly early stage. He resisted the temptation to fabricate a limp when he was hooked off but he must have been devastated. I cannot recall an earlier tactical substitution a Test.

Other than that, there were some positive signs. The final English try was a classic three-card trick. Having driven Australia over from two line-out drives England gained another line-out deep in Australian territory.

But instead of setting up another ferocious drive, the ball was played straight to the back line. A simple, but wonderfully executed set play saw Mark Cueto power over. It has been a long time since England have scored a try like that.

In the first 15 minutes, before the ball control problems got out of hand, there was some indication that England are developing a dynamic, off-loading game among the forwards. If they are able to combine such a style with their traditional strengths they will be a very powerful team and tremendously difficult to defend against.

From Australia's point of view, they must have been delighted with their front five's performance. Justin Harrison had an excellent game and the much-predicted annihilation of their scrummage never materialised. Indeed, they were able to produce good quality ball from this phase.

In the back line, they have unearthed a real gem in Matt Giteau. His break to create Jeremy Paul's try was quite outstanding and you can see why most astute observers in Australia have him pencilled in as Steve Larkham's long-term replacement at outside-half. Just to give you some idea of his talent, he is also reckoned good enough to act as scrum-half cover at Test level. This guy is the next great one in the line that runs from Hawthorn and Ella to Lynagh and Larkham.

Overall, England should be pleased with this series and acknowledge that their new team will take time to develop. To change so many players and lose so much experience is not easy.

But much progress has been made, and the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman have still to return. Most importantly, the public seem to have stopped looking back to November 2003 and are forming a growing attachment to a new set of talented and dedicated players.

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