Chris Ashton blasted England’s wastefulness after Saturday’s 20-14 defeat to resurgent Australia at Twickenham dented their hopes of being top seeds for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Stuart Lancaster’s men failed to score a single point after half time, despite dominating the closing stages and forgoing several kickable penalties in search of a decisive second try. No8 Thomas Waldrom dropped the ball over the line while centre Manu Tuilagi, who scored England’s only try, infuriated Ashton by opting to go it alone rather than release him.
“I think we cost ourselves the game. We had enough possession in their 22 and we just didn’t take our chances,” said Ashton.
“I think the right decisions were made from those penalties [to go for touch or quick taps]. I thought we had them but we just couldn’t find that finishing pass. Toby Flood tried to find me through the back and if the pass had gone to hand I would have been through a hole. And then Thomas Waldrom dropped the ball over the line.
“You have to take your chances. Our attack was better [than in last week’s win against Fiji] but we are lacking that clinical edge. We put ourselves in a position to win that game and that was the frustrating thing.”
Full-back Berrick Barnes kicked 15 points and wing Nick Cummins scores the Wallabies’ only try as they restored pride following their 33-6 drubbing in France just seven days earlier. It means England are unlikely to be among the top four seeds when the draw for the 2015 World Cup on home soil is made next month and leaves them anxious to bounce back in the remaining autumn internationals against South Africa and New Zealand.
Forward Tom Wood, who impressed when he came off the bench, said: “Australia have set a precedent that when things go wrong and you are written off, that is they way to bounce back and that is what we must try and do.
“The right things were said after the game about being harder on ourselves and not letting chances like that slip. It’s about when you get a chance at international level, nail it. It’ll be a huge physical challenge next week. We have to get our head around that and face them head on.”
■ WORLD Cup-winning former England boss Sir Clive Woodward has laid the blame for Saturday’s defeat to Australia squarely at the feet of head coach Stuart Lancaster.
Woodward criticised England for choosing line-outs and tap-penalties ahead of kickable chances in the closing stages of the 20-14 loss, and depicted that flawed decision-making as a failure of coaching.
“The biggest thing is trying to be smart ahead of the game. If on a Thursday you gave the players the situation – you are 20-14 down with 22 minutes to go, you have a penalty, the ball is slow, what do you do? – the right decision is to kick for goal and reduce the points to just three.
“If you go for the line-out or go for the try you have to score and if you don’t you give huge momentum to the defending team. The key is not making decisions in the heat of battle, it is getting these things in players’ heads before you go on the pitch, so you know what is going to happen in every single situation. That is the secret to coaching.”
Woodward said failing to beat an under-strength Australia was “a big chance lost”. “There is a big opportunity for Stuart Lancaster to make his mark this week,” he added. “He has to turn it around and go into South Africa, when they’ll be underdogs, to see if they can put in a performance.”