England claim famous win against Wallabies
June 19, 2010
England's Ben Youngs dives over to score a try in Sydney
© Getty Images
England claimed an historic 21-20 victory over Australia in their clash at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
In arguably their finest display since they lifted the Rugby World Cup at the same ground, tries from scrum-half Ben Youngs and winger Chris Ashton inspired England to their first win in the southern hemisphere since that famous night in 2003 with fly-half Toby Flood and his replacement Jonny Wilkinson keeping the Wallabies at bay. Two tries from returning centre Matt Giteau, who contributed all of his side's points, ensured the contest went down to the wire but he was wide with a crucial late penalty that could have won his side the game. In the end, the hosts were undone by a much-improved performance from England packed with energy and vigour that resulted in only the second away win of manager Martin Johnson's reign.
Under pressure to inspire a return to winning ways following his side's 27-17 reverse in Perth last weekend, Johnson gave the dynamic duo of Northampton lock Courtney Lawes and Leicester No.9 Youngs their first Test starts while his Australian counterpart Robbie Deans welcomed Giteau back to his ranks along with scrum-half Will Genia for the latest Cook Cup clash.
Early pressure from England forced the ball loose on the Australia 22 and although they could not breach the home side's defence, a penalty came their way for offside that Flood slotted to give the tourists the lead. A blood injury saw David Wilson replace Dan Cole in the England front row ahead of the eagerly-anticipated first scrum of the game where, as last week, the whistle was quick to go against Australia - this time for an early engagement. But the Wallabies responded with a significant shove of their own at the next set piece that drew cheers from the home crowd and sparked a minor spat.
Tempers flared again shortly after and a punch from England loose-head Tim Payne gifted Australia a penalty and led to a word of warning from referee Romain Poite to both sides. Giteau stepped up to land the penalty and level the scores.
England showed a refreshing willingness to give the ball some air following the restart with wing Chris Ashton injecting a burst of speed, but a promising move was brought to a disappointing end by a knock on from centre Mike Tindall. Australia wing Drew Mitchell was the next to be penalised for a dangerous tackle on England fullback Ben Foden and the resulting lineout saw the visitors pressing once again. Flanker Tom Croft broke the gain line before Tindall showed good strength but again the play broke down with Australia snaffling a turnover and clearing the ball. England continued to dictate proceedings but some careless rucking from a fired-up Steve Thompson on Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe robbed England of some momentum.
Australia were living off scraps but it proved enough when an early tackle from Lawes allowed Giteau to put his side ahead for the first time with his second penalty. But they were soon chasing the game after a moment of magic from Youngs. A penalty allowed England to take the game to the Australia 22 and from the lineout the Leicester scrum-half collected the ball from club-mate Croft before darting through a gap and scampering away from Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell to score.
Australia's response was swift and equally impressive. A solid scrum in the England midfield was the key and winger Digby Ioane cut England wide open with a superb run, thanks largely to a dummy run from Giteau, who then loomed up on his team-mate's shoulder and gladly accepted the scoring pass before knocking over the simple conversion. A powerful scrum from England was a fine reply but Flood was unable to land the penalty from the half-way line.
Quick ball continued to fuel England's impressive tempo and they were rewarded with another exceptional try. Youngs and Tom Palmer combined well down the short side, with the lock finding Ashton with a neat inside pass, and the prolific winger danced his way through the stretched defence before speeding away for his side's second try. Flood missed the conversion but England had the lead once more.
The see-saw nature of the game continued with an Ioane break driving England back before a stray hand from Croft at the breakdown allowed Giteau the chance to add to his personal tally, but he pushed his latest effort wide of the posts. Winger Mark Cueto was penalised for going off his feet soon after but again Giteau failed to make the kick - this time hitting the post.
Unsurprisingly the contest took on a cagier feel as the half-time approached with the pace of the game seemingly taking its toll.
Australia's ambition was still there to be seen from the restart and they soon back in control of the game. The hosts ignored calls for a knock from England to spark a short side move with silky handling from Will Genia and Cooper putting O'Connor away. He found Mitchell inside who in turn fed Giteau, who raced in for his second try before slotting the easy conversion. The scoreboard continued to tick over when Salesi Ma'afu was penalised at the next scrum which allowed Flood to notch his second penalty.
Another penalty against the Wallabies handed England good field position but the errors that blighted their efforts at the start of the game returned to haunt them. And injuries soon forced changes with Wilkinson returning to the scene of his most famous triumph as a replacement for Flood. The Toulon No.10 made an immediate impact by kicking his side back into the lead after the England pack had once again hammered their opponents at scrum time. Australia then sprung a surprise when awarded a penalty on the England 22 by kicking to the corner but they were thwarted by a determined England defence who claimed a hard-earned penalty.
The game tightened up as it entered the last quarter and an offside penalty against Thompson after a smart break from Wallabies replacement Adam Ashley-Cooper offer Giteau a difficult chance to edge his side ahead once more but his ugly effort went wide of the posts. Australia were soon back on the front foot, with Cooper gliding through, but England were guilty of another sloppy penalty with centre Shontayne Hape taking Giteau out. The indiscretion allowed him a much easier chance to redeem himself but amazingly the experienced Wallabies stalwart was wide again with what was a simple chance.
Tempers boiled over again as the game entered the last five minutes with Wallabies replacement prop James Slipper claiming someone clawed at his eye as the latest scrum collapsed. Australia recovered their composure but a superb steal from Croft allowed Wilkinson to take the game deep into the Wallabies' half as the clock ticked down. It got better for England with the whistle going against Australia at the lineout for a push and Wilkinson had the chance to edge his side towards a famous win with the penalty - but he pushed it wide.
But the England pack came up trumps again at the restart and snuffed the life out of the game to ensure a return to winning ways.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.
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