England clinch historial series in Australia

Date published: June 18 2016

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England clinched a first-ever series win in Australia with a remarkable defensive effort, scrapping their way to a 23-7 win in Melbourne.

The tourists led 13-7 for almost the entire second half thanks to a try from Dylan Hartley and two Owen Farrell penalties, before a breakaway try finished off by Farrell made sure that England would make history.

After the thrills and spills of Sydney this was more of a traditional Test slugfest, boiling over at times and leaving Dan Cole early on with his shirt ripped off his back.

Tries from the two captains Stephen Moore and Hartley were copycat efforts off rolling mauls and from then on it was all about desire. Exhausting enough just watching, both sets of players left everything out there.

Australia had chances to take penalties but opted for the lineout instead – brave at first, but the longer they trailled the more foolish turning down those points seemed.

From renowned tacklers likes James Haskell and Maro Itoje to someone whose tackling has been doubted like George Ford, England defence's was remarkable, even when it looked like their legs might give way.

Chris Robshaw celebrated his 50th cap with an outstanding display. Haskell finished with 21 tackles. Australia will feel that Farrell's late try was burglary, but the truth is England had more than earned it for their work camped in their own 22.

Farrell, metronomic with his place kicking in Sydney, couldn't draw his first attempt around to keep the scores at 0-0.

The pre-match concerns about the AAMI Park struggling with Test level scrums proved to be more than valid, as the two packs churned up dead turf at an alarming rate following the first couple of engagements. Frankly, it was an embarrassment.

If the scrums were a letdown then a scrap which blew up following Robshaw's apparent neck roll on Nick Phipps saw both sides steaming into one another, a lengthy TMO referral resulting in Moore being penalised for flying in off his feet.

Patience was the key to England's approach on attack and after a bomb from Ford went unclaimed by the Wallabies waiting underneath, allowing it to bounce, Joseph pounced to secure possession to set up an attack which resulted in England kicking to the corner from a penalty and eventually scoring.

Having set the maul England's second phase gave them the power required to drive forward with Hartley pouncing for the try. Farrell converted to make it 7-0.

A superior kicking game and the outstanding work of Cole in the scrum was allowing England to control proceedings, Farrell adding a penalty to stretch the lead to ten.

Seemingly in a daze Australia desperately needed something to snap out of their lull, and it came from their own maul.

The loss of Rory Arnold to the blood bin didn't matter as the Wallaby pack set and then powered over with the captain Moore the scorer. Foley put his Sydney kicking woes behind him by landing the conversion from out wide to make it 7-10.

Samu Kerevi repayed the faith shown in him by Michael Cheika with some punishing runs, threatening to split England open with the first half running down.

Australia though had a final chance to attack after Billy Vunipola kicked the ball out seemingly at the same time as the hooter.

The hosts instead cracked out an attack from the resulting lineout which went four minutes and over 20 phases into overtime, the Wallabies finishing it with absolutely no points whatsoever. England led by the break, just, as both teams headed down the tunnel still scrapping.

It was the visitors who started the second half with more energy but they had been lucky to not lose a man to a yellow card in the first half after cynical penalties close to their own line.

A TMO referral for a block in the back by Farrell suggested that sin-binning would finally happen, except instead Australia were penalised for obstruction and Farrell obliged to make it 7-13.

Only an excellent turnover from Robshaw on his 50th cap could keep Australia out again but the Wallabies were starting to surge, a fresh front row turning the screw on the scrum to test England's defence again. Foley's knock-on brought that to an end.

With England tiring the introduction of Christian Lealiifano to add some width to Australia's game looked like a masterstroke as the Wallabies enjoyed close to 70 percent possession in the second half.

Time and again England's defence five metres out from their line remained resolute, desperately kicking clear whenever they could.

Waiting for a vital mistake, England pounced. Courtney Lawes burst up the middle was followed up by replacement hooker Jamie George, and it was his grubber kick which unlocked the Australia defence, Farrell racing up in support to get to the ball and score the series-winning score.

Another dominant scrum from England had Billy Vunipola roaring in celebration and Farrell lining up another penalty, stretching the score to 23-7.

Sunday will be a rough day for Australia as they try and recover for Sydney. England meanwhile will savour the moment. What a turnaround from their Rugby World Cup disaster.

Man of the Match: A tie between England's two "six and a halves" – Chris Robshaw and James Haskell – whose defensive efforts will be remembered for some time.

Moment of the Match: Finely poised for so long, Jamie George's support line and kick ahead suddenly have Australia scrambling as Farrell pounced for that winning score.

Villain of the Match: Nothing overly nasty to report.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Try: Moore
Con: Foley

For England:
Tries: Hartley, Farrell
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 3

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Christian Leali’ifano, 23 Luke Morahan

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Elliot Daly

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

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