England failures cost them victory over Australia

England’s rugby internationals endured another failure at Twickenham against a depleted Australia side. England missed several opportunities to capitalise on an early lead, but in the end Stuart Lancaster’s team were found wanting, going down 20-14.

England were hopeful of establishing their credentials as one of the top four sides in the world, a crucial designation if they want preferential seeding for the 2013 World Cup. Instead, they showed their vulnerability.

With the match tightly-balanced, England may have been guilty of being too ambitious, not a charge that has been levelled at them overmuch in recent years. Presented with four second-half penalties that seemed to be kickable, they preferred to aim for touch and gain territorial advantage rather than getting points on the board. It was a habit that they pursued too faithfully after a quickly-taken penalty had given England a first-half try.

"I am not going to criticise them for trying things," Lancaster said. "The momentum was with us and the decisions to kick for touch rather than goal were the right ones. All we failed to do was score a try."

The failure was characteristic of a scrappy performance from England against an Australian side that was competitive but hardly formidable. Unforced errors gave away sloppy points and caused the breakdown of several promising attacking openings.

England’s next match pits them against South Africa, and Lancaster knows that it is crucial that England repair some of the damage against the Springboks. That match at least offers more grounds for optimism than the final autumn international, against New Zealand. "A week is more than enough to fix the problems," the coach said. "Australia were smarter than us and we know we have areas to work on, but we showed an intent to play and we can build on that. South Africa will pose different questions and we have to be better."

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