England made history by winning in Brisbane for the first time with a 39-28 victory over Australia at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Despite a slow start England grabbed control through the excellent goal-kicking of Owen Farrell, who finished with nine out of ten attempts, and the hard work up front from Maro Itoje and James Haskell in particular.
Last year’s World Cup finalists did outscore England by four tries to three. After that fast start though they were left on the back foot, paying the price for Bernard Foley’s struggles off the tee.
Australia flew through the first quarter at a remarkable pace, catching England out with two unconverted tries from Michael Hooper and Israel Folau, but mistakes and England’s superiority at the breakdown and scrum allowed the boot of Farrell and a Jonathan Joseph try to put the tourists ahead 19-13 at half-time.
Credit has to go to Eddie Jones for hauling Luther Burrell off early on when England’s new defence system wasn’t working, the Wallabies time and again finding line breaks off the inside shoulder when attacking the outside channel.
England dominated after half-time, oozing confidence in the set-piece with Farrell laying on the points and Marland Yarde over in the corner.
Scott Sio’s yellow card hardly hindered the Wallabies’ comeback, Hooper adding a second try, but through more points by Farrell and their defence England hung on for a memorable victory on Australian soil, wrapped up by Jack Nowell’s try as time ran out.
Starting at a frantic pace Australia tried to puncture England’s defence out wide, only a miracle turnover from Itoje on his own line stemming the tide.
Controlling the possession the early progress was all from the Wallabies, who continually found Mako Vunipola spinning in defence trying to make cover tackles beyond his speed.
Folau picked him out and motored past him to put the Wallabies behind England’s defence, recycling wide for Hooper to ghost in after Anthony Watson had been forced off his wing to make a cover tackle. The Wallabies were rightly ahead at 0-5.
That lead was soon into double figures. Lured in by Bernard Foley’s lateral run, Farrell bit and left the space outside for Folau to gather the pass and hit the accelerator for try number two. Foley missed his second conversion attempt.
England at last put together a sustained attack to enter the Wallabies’ 22, winning a penalty which Farrell slotted to cut the gap to 3-10, and with Itoje again making another key steal England were edging the breakdown battle – but the tempo being played by Australia was controlling the contest.
With a second penalty England clawed their way back before a pivotal moment. Foley scampered through a gap and rounded Mike Brown to score, but the try was ruled out by the TMO for an obstruction in the build-up by Rory Arnold on Burrell.
More wrath from Romain Poite at the breakdown towards Australia, Pocock this time the offender, meant Farrell struck again to make it 9-10.
The Wallabies had looked so astute with the ball in hand but that area oddly proved to be their undoing. The loosest of passes from Folau had Australia scrambling back and when the ball eluded Samu Kerevi trying to gather on the deck, Joseph was there to hack forward and beat Christian Lealiifano in the race for the ball to score.
Foley hit back with his first points off a scrum penalty, even though Scott Sio looked to have triggered the collapse, but the loosehead was rightly penalised on the next engagement.
Up stepped Farrell to land his fifth kick out of five, giving England a six-point lead at the break up 19-13.
A lopsided penalty count of nine for Australia to England’s two by the end of that first half was doing the Wallabies no favours but soon they had bigger problems.
Haskell’s break off the maul put England on the charge, before George Ford’s excellent miss pass out wide found Yarde in acres of space to finish. From 0-10 down, England now led 26-13.
Sio’s nightmare continued, harrassed by Cole to the point where referee Poite sent him to the bin after successive penalties, with the next infringement from a collapsed maul setting Farrell up for another three points to make the gap 16.
Australia needed something and who else but Foley to provide it, his cut-out pass to Folau opening the space out wide for Hooper, again, to hit the afterburners past a struggling Robshaw to grab his second try. Foley again missed off the tee trying to convert, England still ahead 29-18.
With momentum back on the hosts’ side, despite being a man down, England were starting to feel the weight of history.
Another Farrell penalty, his sixth, eased those jitters somewhat. Only momentarily though – Australia coming back hard and crashing over by the posts through Tevita Kuridrani.
Any nerves England had before that moment were now doubled as the clock ticked down, tested close to their line with a five-metre lineout which they came threw unscathed.
The Wallabies though went for a statement of intent by asking Foley to go for the posts off a scrum penalty with just four minutes left. He didn’t miss, making it 28-32 with two minutes to go.
England soaked up the pressure and took the win. Countering off a Wallaby knock-on, Danny Care burst upfield and after recycling Ford’s delicate kick to the corner found Nowell to wrap up a famous day for English rugby.
Man of the Match: Superb outings from Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell’s kicking guaranteed the win, but all eyes are on James Haskell. His tackle rate was astonishing around the park for England.
Moment of the Match: What might have been had Australia gone to the corner? Bernard Foley’s 77th-minute penalty cut the gap to four, but Australia didn’t get close to England’s 22 again.
Villain of the Match: Nothing nasty to report.
Tries: Hooper 2, Folau, Kuridrani
Pens: Foley 2
Yellow Card: Sio
Tries: Joseph, Yarde, Nowell
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 6
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 James Horwill, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Christian Lealiifano
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)