Twickenham: England fans trudged away from Twickenham dejected as the hosts crashed out of the 2015 World Cup early this morning, while Australia supporters partied in the Twickenham stands long before their 33-13 victory was sealed.
Fancy dress was in evidence in the stands, with Englishmen dressed as Crusaders and Australians decked head to toe in kangaroo costumes. With dry ice blowing across the pitch, Twickenham looked like a battlefield before the match had even begun.
As the stadium lights went out for the laser light show, the atmosphere became more like a rock concert than a sporting encounter.
Jets of flame shot up pitchside as the flag-bearers emerged. At a canter, Australia captain Stephen Moore led his team out first, as England calmly strolled on to the pitch.
After deafening renditions of God Save The Queen and Advance Australia Fair aided by the New Tottenham Singers choir, the 81,080-strong crowd fully revved up as England’s Owen Farrell got the match under way. But nerves among England fans were worsened by Australia’s dominance of the opening phases.
Australia fans, who filled the West Stand corners, were sent into delirium in the 20th minute when Bernard Foley weaved through to score a first try. A hush followed the conversion as England supporters took stock.
The Aussie fans were on their feet again 15 minutes later and even broke out into dancing when Foley scored a well-worked second try.
The tension began to show as England supporters barracked their team for losing possession in Australian territory. In the half-time queue for lagers, rival supporters discussed the 17-3 scoreline.
“It’s an entertaining, brilliant game of rugby,” said England fan James Walker, who flew home from Houston for the match. “It isn’t over yet. England are still in with a shout.”
Hugh Bradshaw, from near Brisbane, said: “I’m quietly confident. We don’t like to be too confident. We’re not Kiwis.”
The first lusty rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot inspired an England surge into Australia’s half. But in the 50th minute, the half-time hope from England fans took a knock as Foley kicked another penalty.
Prince Harry, wearing an England top, hollered “Come on!” as the hosts started their most promising attack of the match.
And the royal rugby-lover finally had something to cheer in the 56th minute when England’s Anthony Watson reached over the line, triggering a roar of delight and flag-waving in the stands.
The converted try revived the home supporters and when a 64th-minute Owen Farrell penalty made it 13-20, they sensed a shot at victory. But Farrell’s yellow-carded tackle on Matt Giteau with 10 minutes to go transformed what could have been an England line-out in Australia’s 22 into a successful Wallaby penalty, turning the momentum and the atmosphere with it.
Dancing Australians in the upper tier rightly sensed victory and got the party started long before Giteau’s try put the seal on England’s demise.