England finally put in the performance Martin Johnson had been longing for as they picked up a fine 35-18 victory over Australia at HQ.
England finally put in the performance Martin Johnson had been longing for on Saturday with a ruthless 35-18 win against Australia at Twickenham.
It was an 80-minute effort that saw Lewis Moody lift the Cook Cup and the champagne sprayed. The victory – inspired by two tries from wing Chris Ashton and 25 points via the assured boot of Toby Flood – has also sent out a warning shot to rivals ahead of next year's World Cup.
Moody had come out of the dressing rooms in a manner that summed up his 'Mad Dog' nickname – smiling yet scowling in a fired up fashion. And it seemed that the captain's late pep talk before kick-off rubbed off on his team-mates, who took the fight to the Wallabies in the early stages.
England unsurprisingly had set about looking to take the heart out of their opponents, attacking Australia down the middle of the field through Courtney Lawes and Nick Easter. However, the visitors weathered the early storm and were in fact the first to have an opportunity for posts. Wing James O'Connor missed from the touchline though in what was a bad day from the tee in which he was unsuccessful with his first three.
The hosts soon capitalised in what quickly became the enterprising brand that Martin Johnson has been desperate for for some time now. England were running the ball from all areas, had options and were backing themselves to claim successive wins against Oz.
It paid off too as a Shontayne Hape crash ball led to the impressive Mark Cueto carrying on the move before Tom Croft's offload found Ashton, who showed strength to cross close to the posts. The score was 10-0 on 25 minutes with England enjoying all of the possession.
However, it probably should have been 10-9 after Force youngster hit the post with his third penalty attempt just after the half-hour. Matters then got worse for Australia when England again showed their counter-attacking ability in a move that was started by the in-form Ben Youngs. The number nine spotted something from his own 22 and the hosts ultimately motored downfield before centre Matt Giteau was blown for lying on the ball.
Flood accepted the three-point attempt, which he landed and then cancelled out O'Connor's second penalty shortly after the restart before Australia mounted their first real assault.
But when Will Genia darted himself he was swallowed up by a combination of Flood, Mike Tindall and Tom Palmer, England snatched the turnover and scored one of the great tries.
Youngs spotted the opening and sent Lawes away down the blindside. The lock then slipped the pass to Ashton who roared clear to score from 85 metres and send HQ wild.
Ashton still had to beat Drew Mitchell but he stepped inside and out-stripped the Wallaby winger to score under the posts, leaving Flood a simple conversion, and England led 26-6.
Australia found a toe-hold in the game when Kurtley Beale scored a brilliant individual try, breaking England's line and then chipping over Ben Foden before touching down.
It did nothing to dampen England's confidence. Cueto surged through two tackles straight from the restart and when Nathan Sharpe was penalised for holding on Flood slotted another penalty.
Australia struck again when Dylan Hartley missed his jumpers on halfway and Luke Burgess snatched possession and raced clear before off-loading to prop James Slipper.
Moody hauled the replacement prop down but Australia recycled the ball quickly and Beale crashed over.
But still England tore into the Wallabies, with Cueto scything through their defence, and Flood sealed a famous victory with two more penalties.
Man-of-the-match: A tough call between Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton. The former was so often the catalyst for England while Toby Flood and Courtney Lawes also put in good shifts, but Ashton's two tries see him take this one.
Moment-of-the-match: It has to be Chris Ashton's memorable try that left Wallaby winger Drew Mitchell tasting dirt. One of the great tries to ever be scored at Twickenham and it left Australia having it all to do.
Villain-of-the-match: Slightly harsh to dish this award out so we have decided to share it out with the charcoal shirt subplot, James O'Connor missing those early kicks and Matt Giteau for getting yellow carded.
Tries: Ashton 2
Con: Flood 2
Pen: Flood 7
Tries: Beale 2
Pen: O'Connor 2
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (capt), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 David Wilson, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Hendrie Fourie, 20 Danny Care, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Delon Armitage.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Mark Chisholm, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 James Slipper, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Lachie Turner.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France), Simon Mcdowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)