In a match played with an intensity expected of the Cup’s two glamour teams, the speed of the Australians’ play at the ruck and with ball in hand – along with the rub of the green at times from referee Darian Furner – proved too much for the Englishmen to handle.
Australia dominated early field position and possession before finally in the 16th minute, Australian centre Mick O’Keefe burst through three defenders down the right hand side to score the opening try of the night. He duly converted for a 6-nil lead.
After English winger Zack McComb had a try disallowed by referee Darian Furner for putting a foot into touch diving for the left corner, Australia extended their lead in the 24th minute when interchange back Kelly Benson beat a tackle before outpacing English fullback Jacob Morgan to score near the uprights. O’Keefe converted for a 12-nil lead.
Australia scored the most spectacular try of the night five minutes later when Sam Gee burst clear up the centre from a short pass before he produced a deft inside grubber kick off his instep for Ryan Cameron to gather and send the final pass to Jack Peoples to score behind the posts for an 18-nil lead.
The speed of Australia’s play was starting to tell as Anderson made a long break down the right six minutes from half time, before wrapping around Jarrod Lee in support to score a superb long range try and a 24-nil lead.
Australia then shifted play down the left hand blind side in the last minute of the first half to send winger David Sheridan away for a 55 metre dash to score for a remarkable 30-nil Australian lead at the break.
Any hope of an English comeback was dashed in Australia’s first attack of the second half when a Cameron grubber kick in behind the nonplussed defence was easily picked up by Sheridan who raced 20 metres for his second try and a 36-nil lead.
After what appeared to be an Australian knock on in the 55th minute was ruled otherwise by referee Furner, the repeat possession saw Australian fullback Savern Rapana barge over through four defenders from close range to score for a 42-nil lead.
To their credit, England did not throw the towel in and on the back of three successive penalties with 15 minutes to play, worked field position down the right for James Mason to score in the 64th minute and Dom Bryan to score in the 72nd minute to get back to 42-10 with James Woodburn-Hall’s touchline conversion.
Australia were not done yet for the night – with another Anderson brake sending Lee away to score three minutes from time, before Mick O’Okeefe bagged his second try in the last minute to bring up the Australian half century of points.
Anderson told RLWC2017.com after full time that the defending champions came to their opening match to make a statement – and succeded.
”We were happy with the first game’s performance from all the boys”, Anderson enthused.
“It’s been a good (lead up) camp all week, and I think we’ve gone out there and proved a point.”
Meanwhile, English coach Colin Baker lamented his side’s first half performance.
“If we’re going to take something from that game, it’s the second half”, Baker told RLWC2017.com after the match.
“We challenged ourselves to come out with an improved performance. To some extent we did do that. I do feel though we didn’t turn up – we didn’t turn up in the first half”.
Australia take on surprise opening day winners Pacific Islands at Windsor on Sunday at 4pm AEST in the battle of the first round winners, while England tackle traditional British rivals Wales at the same venue on Sunday at 2pm AEST.
Australian Universities 54 (David Sheridan 2, Savern Rapana 2, Mick O’Keefe, Kelly Benson, Jack Peoples, Jamie Anderson, Jarrod Lee tries; Mick O’Keefe 9 goals) def. England Universities 10 (James Mason, Dom Bryan tries, James Woodburn-Hall goal) at St Marys Leagues Stadium. Referee: Darian Furner (New South Wales/Australia). Half-Time: Australian Universities 30-0.
England were outclassed by an Aussie outfit committed to defending the Universities World Cup. (Source: Nigel Owen)