Eddie Jones believes that 14-man Australia were helped in their first victory over England in nine attempts by the referee James Doleman attempting to “even things up” following Darcy Swain’s first-half red card.
England were leading 6-3 when Swain was sent off for headbutting Jonny Hill, who was shown a yellow card, but the Wallabies romped into a 30-14 lead before a late rally from Jones’s side. Billy Vunipola was also shown a yellow card with 15 minutes to go when Australia had edged ahead at 16-14.
The defeat ends England’s eight-match winning streak against Australia under Jones and is a fourth loss in a row after a disappointing end to the Six Nations and a heavy defeat by the Barbarians – who also had a first-half red card – last month. It further heightens the pressure on Jones, whose side must now win Saturday’s second Test in Brisbane to keep alive any hope of winning the series.
Jones insisted he was not making excuses when making the remarkable claim that every red card he has ever seen has resulted in the referee attempting to compensate by favouring the side reduced to 14 players.
“That always happens,” said Jones. “You look at the history of the game, whenever you get a red card the referee evens it up. That’s normal and we’ve got to be good enough to handle it. When you play against 14 men the referee has a significant impact on the game and you’ve got to be good enough to understand what that is and we weren’t good enough to understand what that is. And therefore we paid the price.
“But that happens in every game of rugby I’ve seen, because they’re nice blokes, referees. I’m not criticising the referees, I’m not using it as an excuse, that’s the reality of rugby. He evens it up. He helps the team with the red card.”
Jones insisted that England can still win the series despite seeing their chances of a successive whitewash come to an end. Two late tries from the debutants Henry Arundell and Jack van Poortvliet gave the scoreline some respectability and the former’s eye-catching cameo was among the few positives for Jones to take.
“I’m disappointed that we’ve lost. The results aren’t good enough. I accept that and that’s my responsibility,” added Jones. “We’ll work hard to turn it around. We’ve got a committed group of players, a committed coaching group. It’s painful but I know the guys will keep working hard, we’re committed to winning the series 2-1.”
Of Arundell, who came on with eight minutes remaining and scored a stunning try in the left corner as well as almost adding another, Jones added: “David Campese did something like that in his first Test. I’m loth to compare him to Campese but if he keeps working and keeps adapting to Test rugby he’s going to be some sort of a player.”
Australia were dealt a blow minutes before kick-off when Quade Cooper was ruled out with a calf injury and they lost Tom Banks and Allan Alaalatoa to first-half injuries before Swain’s red card. Their head coach, Dave Rennie, was delighted with the character his depleted side showed before revealing the Wallabies may appeal against Swain’s sending off.
“We’re absolutely rapped with the character,” he said. “We lost the collisions in the first half on both sides of the ball and struggled to get our game going. We applied pressure well and defended very well. We’ll have a decent look at the footage and work out how we’re going to appeal against that. We’ll seek clarity around it.”