TWICKENHAM, London -- And just like that, with three wins from four and new folk heroes in Joe Cokanasiga and Kyle Sinckler, all was well in the England world.
After England swiped aside Australia to finish their autumn programme with victories over South Africa and Japan and that one-point defeat to New Zealand, they have ended a difficult year on a high. A year that started with a dismal Six Nations campaign has been finished by a group of players who at some stages were fourth or fifth choice in the pecking order, but now have a great opportunity to gatecrash the Rugby World Cup squad.
That's the important lesson from these four weekends at Twickenham. When we are sat at Japan 2019 next September, we will remember when Sinckler splintered the Wallabies' pack, when Cokanasiga danced through the Wallabies' defence and when Mark Wilson went from being a good club player to an international whose versatility will be invaluable at the World Cup. And only then will we know if this decision to start Jamie George over Dylan Hartley was a mere tester, or the sign of a plan to guide England over the next year.
But equally, if Owen Farrell's tackling technique gets England into strife, we will remember these cautionary lessons. First against South Africa where he got the rub of the green from the TMO over his shot in the final throes of the match. The referee deemed it legal, later clarified as a penalty by World Rugby. Then against Australia Farrell could count himself lucky for not seeing a card and conceding a penalty try for his dubious hit on Izack Rodda in the final play of the first half. Farrell was the last man between Rodda and the tryline and led with his shoulder to halt the lanky second-row.
The referee Jaco Peyper, who had a generally below-par game, said both players led with their shoulder. Peyper made the wrong call. Michael Cheika later called the decision "ludicrous" and claimed it was one of three tries they had disallowed.
Had Farrell got yellow-carded, he would not have been on the pitch to tee up Elliot Daly's try at the start of the second half, which gave England a margin and momentum which Australia could never pin back. It was the sole 'what if?' moment and judging by the way England finished and the power they had on their bench,they still would have won even if the margin may have been.
The Farrell decision should not detract from England's performance. They were better than Australia in every part of the game. They dominated the breakdown -- with the injured David Pocock a notable absentee for the Wallabies -- and splintered their scrum. They won the gainline battle and any Australia attack looked stumbled-upon, rather than carefully planned, driven by individuals rather than a coherent effort.
The only thing that will frustrate Jones is England squandering a few try-scoring opportunities. Sinckler had a supreme performance at tight-head, and was chief protagonist in disintegrating the Wallabies' front-row. He was also great value on the ref-mic, at one point accusing his opposition props of "snitching", while also turning the air blue and forcing a hasty apology from the host broadcasters. Away from the set piece, his ball-carrying sent Wallabies defenders flying like a bowling ball through ten-pins and while there were a couple of wayward offloads, this performance saw him cement the tight-head spot. And Jones' message to Sinckler is simple: concentrate on scrummaging and then everything else.
For Cokanasiga, injuries to Chris Ashton and Jack Nowell saw him thrown in probably before planned, but he responded by showing Jones why he has to be in the World Cup squad. The Twickenham crowd adored him as he ran the ball time and time again into the green and gold wall. He scored once, and should have got another, coming up a yard short after a rampaging run. Jonny May also caused all sorts of mischief and had a wonderful score ruled out after the ball kissed the touchline in the build up to his double kick-chase effort.
Even Manu Tuilagi managed a return without getting injured.
Meanwhile, this draws a line under a dismal 2018 for the Wallabies. The return of four wins from 12 is far from their own standards and in a week where they had two influential players stood down for breaches of team discipline, this hammering at Twickenham will do little to banish the clouds hovering over this Australia team. Only an added time try from Israel Folau -- his second of the game -- prevented them from equalling their worst ever defeat in England, set last year.
Cheika afterwards spoke of how this year has hurt, and how it will be used as motivation. He will remember that Farrell decision but so, too, weigh up the form of Will Genia, who was poor on the occasion of his 100th cap, and the best way to maximise the ability of Folau and Matt Toomua.
The ref mic gave a rare insight into each team. On the England side, you could constantly hear Maro Itoje -- who had another brilliant game -- and others guiding and providing encouragement. There were frequent shouts of repositioning, or cheering on hit after hit. The Wallabies were much quieter and reserved. Cheika does not become a bad coach overnight, but they need to find form fast or risk implosion. In the run up to the 2015 World Cup, he turned to experienced heads. Adam Ashley-Cooper and Kurtley Beale let him down this week, but both need to be in the squad for Japan.
These matches were the last gauges of how the northern hemisphere stacks up against the south before the Rugby World Cup. Bar the All Blacks, the northern hemisphere have moved ahead. Ireland are leading the charge, but Scotland, Wales and England will all fancy their chance to get the better of any southern hemisphere counterparts in 11 months' time.
On the side of the Twickenham pitch by the east stand were the remnants of the 2015 World Cup branding, a memory of Australia's last victory over England. The Wallabies will re-group, they seem to have a knack of that in World Cup years, but England are in far better shape. This month has been a case of job done for Eddie Jones and his team.