Australia beat England 28-14 at Twickenham in an error-ridden match.
The Wallabies have a somewhat dodgy record at Twickers – they’ve lost four of their last five visits to London – with last year’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to the Poms also still rankling.
England, under new manager Martin Johnson, are desperate to show their new-look group of youngsters can mix it with the southern-hemisphere big boys.
The joint expectations, therefore, made for a dull affair of a Test match. Scrum followed scrum and turnover followed turnover as both sides betrayed their nervousness at what a loss would mean.
Australian coach Robbie Deans was expecting a well-rounded contest. “You’ve got two sides who like to play with the shackles off. It won’t be a frivolous game but it should be a game that will have everything,” he said before the start.
How wrong he was. It was only from the 70th minute that some continuity began to build-up and by then the Wallabies were content to let England run at them while they raised the tackle count.
Aussie flyhalf Matt Giteau was the man targeted by England in the build-up for his silky distribution skills but the Wallabies themselves rarely got going and their solitary try came with only 12 minutes remaining off yet another England mistake.
However, when the match started it was all Wallabies. In the first 15 minutes Giteau slotted three penalties for silly England infringements. A rare England attack yielded three points via a drop kick by fullback Delon Armitage while flyhalf Danny Cipriani – who made several excellent breaks – hashed-up anything when it came to his boot (including two drop goal attempts, a conversion and a penalty).
The Wallabies seemed to be the ones settling until the 32nd minute when an amateurish mistake by winger Peter Hynes handed the ball to England scrumhalf Danny Care. With England swarming, flanker Tom Rees seemed to have scored under the posts but video replays were inconclusive. The resulting scrum, however, did see England score, No 8 Nick Easter the man burrowing over. Cipriani managed a penalty to take the score to 11-12 (Giteau had meanwhile put another over) just before half-time as England clawed themselves back, no doubt the thought of a glowering Johnson awaiting them in the changeroom providing the gee-up.
But after the break it was the Aussies who came out snorting – centre Ryan Cross was just stopped on the 5m line after some slick handling.
Thereafter it was back to the collapsing scrum and turnover script until Aussie fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper scored after lock Nathan Sharpe (who had an excellent game) kicked ahead from a line-out botch-up. Quick recycling took the Wallabies to the tryline and only frantic England defence stopped the five pointer. No matter: the old hands in the Australian side steadied the ship and after several batters at the tryline eventually the ball was shifted wide and Ashley-Cooper scored in the corner. Giteau calmly slotting the conversion.
England substituted Cipriani with 10 minutes to go and despite some heroic bashing as the clock wore down never breached the Wallabies’ defence again.
England – Try: Easter. Penalties: Cipriani (2). Drop goal: Armitage
Australia – Try: Ashley-Cooper. Conversion: Giteau. Penalties: Giteau (6). Mortlock