England coach Eddie Jones laughed off suggestions that Jonny Hill’s baiting of Darcy Swain was pre-orchestrated, and suggested the referee tried to “even things up” after the red card in his team’s loss to Australia.
Australia’s coach Dave Rennie said the team would review the incident against to see if it was worth appealing, and felt there was a fair amount of provocation.
The Wallabies beat England 30-28 having played for more than half the game with 14 men after Swain’s headbutt on Hill. The England player had, earlier in the game, pushed Swain with both hands in the face and gripped his hair immediately prior to the incident.
“I’m not sure if it was a team plan but certainly there was provocation there,” said Rennie. “And not just in that situation but from earlier in the game. Will have a look at the footage and work out how we’re going to appeal that.
“If it’s a headbutt then it’s clearly a red card. I’m not sure his intent was to headbutt him but we’ll look at the footage and we’ll get clarity around whether we think there’s an opportunity to challenge it.”
INSTANT REACTION: The Roar experts Brett McKay, Harry Jones and Jim Tucker dissect a famous victory for Australia in a special edition of the podcast
Rennie’s team also suffered a confirmed broken arm to Tom Banks, Quade Cooper to a calf injury prior to kick off and a head injury to Allan Alaalatoa, who is out of the second Test in Brisbane with a mandatory 12 day stand down.
“We’re absolutely rapt with the character,” Rennie said.
“I thought the first half, we lost the collisions both sides of the ball and struggled to get our game going.
“Obviously, we lost Quade before the whistle, Allan and Banksy and then a red card to Darcy. But things were calm in the changing room. We had a plan. I thought the leadership on the run with that challenge with a player missing was excellent.”
He said the team had prepared well to play with 14 and 13 players.
“It’s the nature of the game now,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for shoulder to head and a red card and you’re playing with one less so we do a lot of work around scenarios. We spent a bit of time on it yesterday and some plans of those came to fruition unfortunately.
“What we know is [in that situation] you’ve got to work hard for each other. We talked a little bit there at halftime and we knew we could still outwork them even with 14 and for us to win that was going to be crucial.
“There is a a huge amount of belief in our group. I said to the guys before the game we’ve had a couple of years where we picked a reasonably young squad, inexperienced, and there’s been lots of talk about building and developing and we want to we want to raise the expectations of the Australian public and so that’s a start tonight.
“We had a lot of eyes at the stadium. I’d imagine it was a massive crowd around the country and around the world. As a spectacle it probably wasn’t pretty first half but as far as theatre and character it was a hell of a night I thought. We’ve got a lot more in us but really rapt with the attitude and the character we showed.”
Rennie said Lolesio, who had to come into the starting team for Cooper, was “awesome.”
“There was a reason why he was on the bench,” he said, having picked Lolesio ahead of James O’Connor as Cooper’s back up.
“He’s performed really well for the Brumbies. He’s trained really well in the last couple of weeks and there was a lot of confidence.
“He found out he was playing in maybe the last couple of minutes of our warmup and didn’t blink an eye. He was ready.
“Whitey came over, obviously they’re club mates, and he was excited for him. We dragged James out of the stand and got him stripped up and ready to go. Noah was excellent and his goalkicking under pressure again -we’ve seen that a lot of times – was really impressive.”
Rennie made a big change after England went ahead early in the second half, bringing Matt Philip on for Rob Leota.
“There’s a reason to bring Matt Philip on who can call the line out and knowing that we still had Pete Samu to come on give us some fresh legs late in the piece,” he said.
England had momentum.
“They went close to scoring again after that too and it would have been a bigger hole to get out of but all we found a way,” said Rennie.
“We always felt that if we could hang onto a bit of ball and build some pressure, opportunities would come.
“We were clinical enough to create an opportunity for Jordie who finished and we sort of had momentum for the next 20 minutes.”
Banks broke his right arm last year against South Africa and his left tonight.
“It’s pretty serious,” he said. “I haven’t had a chat to the medics about it but certainly won’t featur in the next wee while.
“He had total commitment to the kickoff and ended up high and flipped over the back of someone. No fault of the English but I’m gutted for Banksy because he’s worked so hard to get back. He’s had a great season and we’ll miss him.”
He said he was unsure of Quade’s status for next week as he can’t push off his calf. Alaalatoa is set to face a 12-day stand down.
He added he was confident Taniela Tupou would be available.
“We know we’ll be better next week and so will the English. We’ve got to build our game and we gave away far too many penalties early on which allowed them to play more than they probably would.
“They played under a lot of advantage and kicked less so we need to be better there, but we’ve had two weeks to prepare for this and we’ll grow our game over the next few months.
“The end was disappointing because we deserved to finish stronger than that. The defence coach was pretty disappointed too – he was screaming in my ear when we were watching the last couple of minutes.”
“I’m always annoyed when you lose,” Jones said. “hat would be an understatement but I can’t question the commitment or the effort of the players.
“It’s just sometimes when you’ve got a team and we’re just not tight enough on certain areas of our game, we let them out on certain occasions.
“We led 14-9 with 20 minutes to go. The first half we probably should have been ahead by a number of points and we weren’t and those sort of things they come back and bite you and it did.
“They came back and they had 10 good minutes of rugby, where they scored a couple of good tries. We’ve missed one or two tackles and let them back in the game. And they got a big enough lead to win. Its painful, painful, but I know that guys are working hard we’re committed to winning the series 2-1.”
On the TV coverage, Jones said he thought the referee tried to even the game out after sending off Swain. He was asked to elaborate in his media conference.
“That always happens. You look at the history of the game, whenever you get a red card the referee evens it up,” said Jones. “That’s the history. It’s social reciprocality. That happens. That’s normal. And we’ve got to be good enough to handle it.
“I’m not criticising the referee at all. I’m not using as an excuse. That’s just the reality of rugby.
“When you play against 14 men, the referee has a significant impact on the game and you’ve got to be good enough to understand what that is.
“And we we weren’t good enough to understand what that is. And therefore we paid the price. He evens it up. He helps the team with the red card.”
Jones added: “We had opportunities to really put pressure on them. We let them out and you pay for that.
“Let’s be sure about one thing boys. We’re not using the referee as an excuse but the referee changes and we’ve got to be good enough to adapt.
“You’ve got to paint a good picture at the breakdown. And, we weren’t doing that. We probably went back to old habits.
“We’re trying to play a slightly different way in attack and it’s not engrained in our game. And because of that we to tech particularly. And it’s not ingrained in our game. And because of that we let them off when we should have scored.
“And that’s the difference in the game. We were allowing them to recover particularly with 14 men, allowing them to drift to the sideline, we needed to keep playing on top of them. Putting pressure on them.”