Waltz time: it's Australia day at the double
Sunday 28 November 2004
Normal service has been resumed, and Australia are showing us all how to play rugby again. At Twickenham yesterday the Wallabies edged a 21-19 win over England thanks, in large part, to a fine performance from their young centre Matt Giteau. Later, at Elland Road, the Kangaroos smashed Great Britain to smithereens, winning 44-4 to take rugby league's Tri-Nations title at an embarrassing canter. In London, England's union players bust a collective gut but fell agonisingly short against a determined Australian side who were hungry for revenge for last year's World Cup final defeat. In Leeds, in the rain, 15 Englishmen, a Welshman and an Irishman flapped and flagged as the men in green and gold ran in six first-half tries to turn a tide of British optimism into a particularly dispiriting puddle. In London, England's union fans mulled over a selection of "what-ifs" - what if Andy Robinson had not selected the struggling Henry Paul in the centre; what if Mike Tindall, who slotted two fine conversions as a stand-in goal-kicker thanks to Paul's problems and Charlie Hodgson's injury, had taken the conversion Andy Gomarsall missed after Lewis Moody's try; what if young Giteau had not been so good at creating tries and converting crucial penalties? In Leeds, Britain's shell-shocked supporters, when they weren't booing their floundering side or sneaking out early, had recourse to a couple of "if-onlys" - if only Terry Newton hadn't given away the silly penalty that gave Australia a flying start; if only the Kangaroo stand-off Darren Lockyer hadn't been born. Lockyer's first-half performance was even better than Giteau's three hours earlier and a couple of hundred miles further south. Back to the drawing board it is, then - in both codes.
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