The sun was out, Jonathan Joseph was back from injury and Twickenham was a sea of white. All the pieces were in place for a glorious return to winning ways for England in this most important of games, but it was not to be.
As is often the case with such important games, the buzz had started to build around the stadium four hours before kick-off. Legions of fans in both white and gold were making the most of the resplendent sunshine, sitting in groups outside the ground in a scene that looked more Lyon than London.
“The head says Australia, the heart says England,” seemed to be the general consensus from the knowledgeable Twickenham faithful – and so it proved to be.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) October 3, 2015
The stadium directors had done with aplomb to create a cauldron of excitement prior to kick-off. As the crowd eagerly awaited the teams to trot out, the lights were dimmed and a combination of spot lights, pyrotechnics and dry ice transformed HQ into a scene more from a NASA launch.
England needed a fast start in order to harness the energy from the crowd. Unfortunately two major mistakes from half-backs Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs in the opening two minutes pretty quickly flattened the noise.
England’s forays into the Australian 22 were met with deafening roars of encouragement, but they were all too rare to really build a tide of momentum.
After Bernard Foley began what was to be a steady flow of points for the evening the atmosphere in the stands became increasingly anxious. The Australia fans were grouped together in the four corners of the stadium but made up for their fewer numbers with an impressive roar every time David Pocock secured another turnover.
Observing the game from behind the posts, one could only marvel at the majestic and incisive lines of running that the Australian backs conjured for 80 minutes. With such flair on display, it was difficult to dispute that the better team had won and put on a magnificent show or rugby that, regardless of the result was clearly appreciated by all 82,000 pairs of eyes watching.
As time ticked on and the reality of England’s early exit from the World Cup started to set in, frustration started to build on and off the field. Owen Farrell’s sin-binning for a reckless challenge was met with dropped heads and a few unsavory, but understandable, explanatives.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 3, 2015
It is safe to say that England are not the most popular team in the world but if truth be told, the majority of rugby fans will admit that the tournament will be worse off for the hosts’ exit. Stadia will still be packed to the rafters and the World Cup party will move on quickly, but without that extra five per cent of noise and excitement that only a home crowd can bring to a tournament.
While Twickenham can no longer be considered a fortress for England, it certainly underlined its status as one of the most enchanting places to watch rugby. The next game at the famous stadium will see Wales take on Australia to decide first and second positions in Pool A. The game may lack the intensity of their previous fixutres against the hosts but those fans lucky enough to have a ticket, can look forward to watching two teams that are very good value for their place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
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