Australia brought England crashing back to earth with a humbling 28-14 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
In the end Australia had to do little more than apply pressure on England, knowing that sooner or later the English would concede a penalty. The rest was down to Matt Giteau's boot, as he slotted six penalties and a conversion to ensure England left HQ with little more than they arrived with.
Coming into the game on the back of a promising victory over the Pacific Islands, there was a real hope that England could build on that foundation; sadly it was not to be. If it wasn't penalties it was turnovers, and if it wasn't turnovers it was poor kicking. But when England look back on this they will rue a missed chance.
Until Australia scored their only try, after seventy minutes, the game was there for the taking. The only problem was that England lacked the composure to take it for themselves, and instead did everything in their power to gift it to Australia.
Prior to Ashley-Cooper going over out wide England had marshalled the Australian attack with something approaching comfort. Yet when it really mattered, when the game was poised on the proverbial knife-edge, England came up horribly short.
The game started in a bizarre fashion, two early Giteau penalties thrown in amongst some helter-skelter rugby. Both sides threw caution to the wind and threw the ball around, giving the impression this was something of a celebration game. Australia soon knuckled down and began to ask questions of England's defence.
Answers were readily available as England looked hungry in defence, repelling the likes of Stirling Mortlock and Ryan Cross with relative ease. And then, as if by magic, England began to construct passages of play that displayed plenty of intent. But, as was the case throughout, an error of some kind always cost them.
In fact it was Delon Armitage who opened England's account, sending over a hesitant drop-goal after twenty minutes. Again Australia reverted to their tried and trusted method of forcing England into mistakes, and soon enough Giteau had clipped over two more penalties and Australia suddenly had a platform from which to build.
Credit to England for ensuring their guests didn't pull away, at least not yet anyway, as they hit back with a telling strike of their own. A series of five yard scrums eventually saw Nick Easter driven over by his fellow forwards. Inexplicably Cipriani missed the easiest of conversions, but at least England were back in the game at half-time.
The second half started brightly for England. Twice they went through ten phases but, ultimately, twice they came away with nothing. The first was due to a rather harsh penalty, but the second can only be blamed on Cipriani's foolish decision to go for a drop kick. With numbers outside of him the erratic fly-half fluffed the simplest of kicks.
Cipriani did manage to gather himself to send over a timely penalty, giving England the lead for the first time, albeit fleetingly. No sooner had they put their noses in front than Andrew Sheridan coughed up a poor penalty at a scrum, which Giteau sent over. By the time Giteau kicked his sixth penalty, two minutes later, you got the impression England were fading.
England continued to give away penalties, allowing Mortlock to have a long range effort - no surprise to see it sail through with yards to spare. The ghost or#f Marseille laid to rest?
From there England were chasing the game and Australia were able to wait patiently for their chance to kill it off.
It came, with ten minutes to go, and Ashley-Cooper's try wrapped up what turned into a comfortable win for Robbie Deans' men. He will want to see them attack a little more next week, but it's another win and another step in the right direction.
England? Well one thing is for sure, there is a lot of work to be done before South Africa arrive next week. The problem today seemed to be mental rather then physical, for time and again they bossed the contact area, only to see all the hard work wasted with needless penalties.
We must accept the fact their side is in it's early stages, and given time they will begin to resemble something more like a team. There were some fine individual displays, but as a whole England were well below par here.
Man of the match: For England Danny Cipriani showed moments of magic, but for each there was something equally as bad, and Danny Care was full of running as always. A mention too for man-of-the-moment Delon Armitage, who didn't set the world on fire but did enough to warrant a third run out next week. However, the award goes to Matt Giteau, who not only kicked six penalties, but kept Australia going forward throughout. All the talk was of his opposite number but in the end Giteau was the one who won the day.
Moment of the match: This has to go to Adam Ashley-Cooper's try as it ended this game as a contest. Rightly or wrongly England were still in with a sniff at 21-14, but when the Wallaby full-back sauntered over, complete with a grin that would make a Cheshire cat proud, it was curtains for Martin Johnson's men.
Villain of the match: Nothing to report.
Pens: Cipriani 2
Drop goal: Armitage
Pens: Giteau 6, Mortlock
England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Tom Rees, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 James Haskell, 20 Michael Lipman, 21 Harry Ellis, 22 Toby Flood.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Peter Hynes, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Stirling Mortlock, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Richard Brown, 7 George Smith, 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Mark Chisholm, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Digby Ioane.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Touch judges: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Brian Stirling
By Marcus Leach