Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has taken responsibility for the premature exit from the World Cup, with skipper Michael Hooper saying the failure against England was “gutting”.
The Wallabies have now dropped below Japan in world rankings after their Rugby World Cup quarter-final 40-16 loss to England saw them dip one place to seventh, having been leapfrogged by tier two tournament darlings Japan.
It is the Wallabies’ equal lowest ranking since World Rugby’s ratings system was introduced in 2003.
A ruthless England outfit smashed Australia 40-16 in Oita, despite the Australians throwing everything at the old enemy in a frenetic attempt to close the class gap.
Winger Jonny May scored two tries in the space of three minutes midway through the first half on Saturday to set up a deserved victory and book England a semi-final berth for the first time in 12 years.
The result has almost certainly ended the tenure of Cheika, who has failed to get the best out of his team in Japan, as he did at the global tournament four years ago.
It was England’s biggest-ever win over the Wallabies and sweet revenge for the pool defeat at Twickenham four years ago.
It was also the seventh straight win for England coach Eddie Jones over Cheika, whose erratic approach to selection at the tournament played a part in the Wallabies lack of cohesion when it counted.
“We’re really upset. We emptied everything into this … and we didn’t get it,” Hooper said on Channel Ten.
“For a lot of reasons [it’s disappointing] – I think, you know, firstly, as a lot of our guys were leaving. Secondly, we had a great supporter base over here to push us along, and we really felt it along the way.
To not be able to do it for them, and ourselves, is pretty gutting.”
England skipper Owen Farrell, who starred for his side, paid tribute to the Wallabies, saying it was a thrill for his nation to head to the semis.
The five-eighth kicked 20 points and was a class above under-used opposite Christian Lealiifano.
“I thought Australia made that a brilliant game,” Farrell said. “They attacked know – I thought Australia made that a brilliant game. They attacked throughout, from minute one to 80.
“We did what was needed … We had the lead and obviously Australia were throwing everything at us again and we wanted to play the game at our pace … thankfully, we did that in the second half.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika praised his team’s spirit, but lamented the two intercepts.
“I thought we actually played quite well, especially that first 50 or 60,” he said on Channel Ten. “Again, we gave away two intercepts … they defended well – like, the better team won. That’s the way it is, you know?
“You’ve got to suck that up sometimes. But, I was supposed to get this done for the people here, and Australians, and I’m so disappointed.”
Cheika, who is set to leave as coach after six years at the helm, said he took the blame for the poor World Cup result.
“I think the lads put everything they had into it today. I want all the Aussies at home, and that are here, to know that. They gave it everything. They put their bodies on the line.
Yeah, we made a few mistakes at different times, but they’ve given everything, these lads, over the last however long it is we’ve been together, and they’re a credit to their country.”
England’s victory was built on an unforgiving defence and the control of five-eighth Farrell, who kicked 20 points and was a class above under-used opposite Christian Lealiifano.
Both pivots enjoyed perfect goalkicking returns but Farrell’s eight successful shots included four conversions while Lealiifano only got to convert his team’s lone try, along with three penalties.
Australia dominated many of the game’s statistics, forcing their opponents to attempt 181 tackles to just 78.
However, basic errors proved costly – as they have done throughout the tournament – against opponents who were methodical every time they made an incursion into Australia’s territory.
Australia’s desire to run England off its feet wasn’t helped by numerous long delays for scrum stoppages, with a poor quality surface partly to blame.
The Wallabies led briefly through Lealiifano’s first of three first-half penalties before the game broke wide open through May’s double in the 18th and 21st minutes.
The speedy winger firstly finished off a slick attack when Manu Tuilagi’s bust created an overlap on the left.
May doubled his tally moments later when a loose David Pocock pass was gathered by Henry Slade, who scooted 40m before a pinpoint grubber was collected with glee by the man celebrating 50 Tests.
Both sideline conversions were slotted by Farrell, who also landed a penalty before the break to put his team 17-9 ahead.
The Wallabies closed within one through a brilliant Marika Koroibete try, set up by smart passing from Reece Hodge and Petaia before the former NRL winger scorched around Elliot Daly to continue his exceptional tournament form.
Just one point clear, England re-established control through Farrell, whose inch-perfect pass sent prop Kyle Sinckler thundering across.
A long spell of Australian attack came to nothing and England’s pack gradually took control, earning three penalties which all turned into three points, and a late intercept try to Anthony Watson.