With England flying home from Australia with a 3-0 series win to their name and the dust settling on an eventful three weeks of rugby, it’s time for ESPN Scrum’s end-of-tour awards.
Best Australia player: Dane Haylett-Petty made great strides on his first appearances in the green and gold while Matt Toomua’s performance in the third Test was superb. But two players stood above the rest: Israel Folau and Michael Hooper. Folau’s ability to carve open defences with such subtleness is rivalled only by Ben Smith in world rugby while Hooper was a constant nuisance for England wholesale jerseys. Hooper just edges Folau.
Best England player: Any one of 15 could scoop this but Owen Farrell, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje and the Vunipola brothers are just ahead of the rest. Farrell’s kicking was remarkable while his performances in open play complemented his relentless accuracy off the tee. Robshaw was sensational in the second Test while Haskell is now indispensable in the openside role as showcased in the first two matches. Cole and Mako Vunipola have locked down both sides of the front-row while Itoje and Billy Vunipola continued to develop their unique skillsets. But on points importance alone, Farrell just pips Haskell.
Best kick: Jamie George’s grubber for Farrell’s series-clinching try in Melbourne was a wonderful piece of rugby initiative. His shin over the try line in the third Test was also impressive.
Best match: All three were pulsating Tests but the first Test just edges the other two for sheer ferociousness.
Best defensive stand: England managed to hold out Australia for 20 phases at the end of the first half in Melbourne and it laid the foundations for their win. It was a remarkable effort.
Most unwelcome interference: The ‘Spider-Cam’ which got in the way during the third Test.
Best poem: Paul Gustard’s decision to use ‘The Guy in the Glass’ as inspiration before the second Test was brilliant.
Best decisions: Eddie Jones’ two calls in the first and third Test to haul players off before half time. In Brisbane it was Luther Burrell who got the hook after 29 minutes while Teimana Harrison had the same treatment after 31 in Sydney. Both were proven correct.
Best tackle: Haskell’s hit on David Pocock inside the opening exchanges in Brisbane set England’s stall out for the whole tour.
Best try: Haylett-Petty’s against England in the third Test was a wonderful sweeping move and showed Australia at their best.
Best atmosphere: Though the pitch was terrible, the confines of Melbourne’s AAMI Park delivered a remarkable, vibrant occasion.
Worst blunder: Underestimating this England side. With Jones at the helm, they mean business.
Biggest Bodyline warrior: Haskell. Tackled and ran himself into the ground.
Best ferry experience: The ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is one of life’s great experiences. The one to Watson’s Bay isn’t bad either.
Biggest fright: The sighting of a red-bellied black snake at The Coast Golf Club in Sydney.
Biggest foregone conclusion: Dylan Hartley Jerseys as British & Irish Lions captain for next June’s tour of New Zealand.
Best media shindig: The gathering put on by the Australian media in Sydney’s Cricket Ground was a superb affair.