England bounce back
Johnson's men take huge leap forward with composed win
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 19/06/10 4:16pm
England tryscorer Ben Youngs
England returned to the scene of their 2003 World Cup triumph with a memorable 21-20 victory over Australia in the second Test in Sydney on Saturday.
England, without a Test win Down Under since that November night seven years ago, were barely recognisable from the team that was so soundly put in its place by the Wallabies in Perth last week.
In what was by far their finest performance under Martin Johnson, England played with intelligence and inventiveness throughout the 80 minutes and at the final whistle no-one could argue that they thoroughly deserved the win.
Tries from Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton, plus two penalties from Toby Flood and another from Jonny Wilkinson ensured Johnson's men of their single-point victory.
Despite Matt Giteau scoring all of his team's 20 points with two converted tries and two penalties, England stood firm and the Wallabies were unable to exorcise the ghosts of 2003 at Sydney's Olympic Staduim.
The first hints of England's transformation were immediately apparent, when they quickly worked themselves into a good attacking position from Aussie fly-half Quade Cooper's kick-off.
And when the Wallabies were penalised for not rolling away in the second minute, Toby Flood had no problem putting England into an early 3-0 lead.
Mat Giteau levelled the scores five minutes later though, after prop Tim Payne was given a talking to by referee Romain Poite for punching.
Giteau needed no encouragement either, when on 16 minutes Courtney Laws was caught off his feet at the ruck, putting his side in front with a 50m kick from the right touchline.
But just two minutes later England hit back with their first try, a magnificent effort by 20-year-old Youngs, who combined his blistering pace with sharp vision when he blasted through a gap at the back of a midfield line-out and jinked his way to the line.
Flood struck the conversion to put England into a 10-6 lead, but it would not last for long and on 23 minutes the brilliance of the Aussie backs at last shone through.
Ironically though, it was thanks to an unusually solid Wallaby scrum, which provided the platform for Digby Ioane to dart through the hole created as England's defence mistakenly targeted Cooper.
Giteau, whose decoy run had helped open the gap, collected the winger's pass back inside and skipped in under the sticks before converting to put his side back in front at 13-10.
But this was nothing like the England who had so little to offer in Perth other than brute force.
This time England were showing both power and poise, this time they were playing with confidence and pace.
And within four minutes they had the Wallabies rocking again with a wonderfully worked first Test try for winger Chris Ashton.
Steve Thompson's pick up and drive saw the ball quickly out to Tom Palmer, who delivered a neat inside pass to Ashton for the winger to accelerate away for the try.
Flood missed the conversion to leave the scores on 15-13 to the visitors.
Giteau missed a penalty on the 30 minute mark when England were penalised at the breakdown and two minutes later the Wallaby centre saw another long range effort bounce off the upright.
On 38 minutes Australia were let off when Thompson broke into open space, only for his pass to be called forward to leave England with a two-point lead at half time.
Australia took just three minutes after the restart to regain the advantage, although England felt aggrieved at a missed knock-on by Will Genia at the start of the move.
A sweeping move to the right saw the Aussie scrum-half spread the ball wide to O'Connor, who used his pace down the touchline to open up a hole in England's defence before feeding Mitchell inside.
The supporting Giteau collected the offload and romped in for his second. Again the centre was on target with the conversion to take the score to 20-15.
Toby Flood closed the gap to two points on 46 minutes as England continued to take their attacking game to the Aussies.
Jonny Wilkinson entered the fray to replace Flood as the clock hit 52 minutes, much to the delight of the 48,000 strong Sydney crowd.
Within a minute, the breaker of Aussie hearts in 2003, who is both admired and feared in equal measures Down Under, had put England in front after Australia's increasingly ragged looking scrum gave up another penalty.
Giteau missed a touchline effort on 68 minutes, sending the ball well wide of the posts to leave the scores on 21-20 and the hosts still trailing by a single point.
The usually metronomic kicker missed again as the game entered its final ten minutes, this time an absolute howler from almost in front.
He was not alone with his poor targeting however, and with just three minutes to go, Wilkinson also missed an easily kickable penalty that would have left the hosts requiring a try.
But England maintained their composure as the clock ticked down to leave Giteau and the rest of his nation desperately regretting that missed penalty.