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Australia 27-17 England

Australia (14) 27
Tries: Elsom, Cooper 2 Cons: O'Connor 3 Pens: O'Connor, Cooper
England (0) 17
Tries: penalty 2 Cons: Flood 2 Pens: Flood

Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody keep an eye on proceedings as England enjoy the better of another scrum
England's scrum was their only real attacking weapon on Saturday

By James Standley

England's pack threatened to earn them a remarkable victory in the first Test but Australia held on to win in Perth despite being butchered in the scrum.

Converted tries from Rocky Elsom and Quade Cooper gave the Wallabies a well-deserved 14-0 lead at half-time.

But England hit back through a Toby Flood penalty and a penalty try.

Cooper then scored his second try and although England's scrum earned them a second penalty try, two late penalties ensured Australia took the spoils.

England's last victory over the Wallabies, in the 2007 World Cup, was based on them scrummaging Australia into the ground and as they twice cut the gap to four points in the second half it looked as though a similar result was on the cards.

But it would have been a harsh result given Australia's far greater attacking threat with the ball in hand and in the end the hosts had just enough in reserve to clinch their third win in a row against England.

606: DEBATE
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It may have been a battling display from England but Australia's limitations in the scrum are unlikely to be found in any of the other top sides in the world.

And the continued inability to produce much in the way of a coherent attacking game must be a major cause of concern for manager Martin Johnson, who has guided England to only eight wins in his 22 Tests in charge - a poorer record than predecessors Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson.

The match always looked like being a clash of styles, but when the Wallabies threatened to blow England away in the first 40 minutes it seemed as though Johnson's side were going to be on the end of an embarrassing hiding.

England were at the end of a long season and were missing some key players, including hooker Dylan Hartley and prop Andrew Sheridan, but the front row was the one area England looked to have the advantage even before kick-off.

Australia were without half a dozen players themselves, including world-class talents behind the pack such as Matt Giteau and Stirling Mortlock, and their entire first-choice front row, with the new-look Wallaby front row having only two caps between them.

But despite securing plenty of possession, England looked laboured when they tried to go wide in the opening period and resorted to kicking - poorly - in an attempt to escape from their own half.

In contrast Australia looked much sharper with ball in hand and it took a superb tackle from Chris Ashton to deny Drew Mitchell the opening try after scrum-half Luke Burgess had made a sniping break.

The hosts duly opened the scoring midway through the half when England, not for the first time, kicked straight down the throats of the Australian back three and Mitchell exploited the poor chase from England to embark on a searing counter-attack.

Foden brought the New South Wales Waratahs winger to ground but the Wallabies took the ball through a couple of phases and then moved it through the hands across the width of the pitch for Mitchell to send Elsom striding over for a marvellous try.

O'Connor, who had missed an earlier penalty, converted and the Wallabies were on their way.

The only thing keeping England in the game was Australia's inability to hold on to passes as they cut through the England defence, but they cut out the mistakes and grabbed their second try after 32 minutes.

Quade Cooper celebrates the first try of his brace
Fly-half Cooper carried his Super 14 form onto the international stage

England had missed a long-range penalty through Flood after Wallaby loose-head Ben Daley once again crumpled under pressure and when the visitors lost a line-out David Pocock hammered into midfield.

Scrum-half Burgess has suffered in comparison with the excellent Will Genia, who was on the bench after recovering from injury, but he was having a fine game and again escaped around the fringes of the ruck before scissoring beautifully with Cooper to send the fly-half skating over next to the posts.

O'Connor converted and although England finally managed to establish themselves in Australian territory at the end of the half, they failed to muscle their way over the line and the Wallabies led 14-0 at half-time.

England had been completely outplayed in the opening 40 minutes, with aimless kicking, poor chasing and sloppy passing negating their control in the scrum, but they tightened their game up after the break and managed to reduce the lead to four points.

First Flood slotted a penalty after another dominant scrum from England and they then earned a penalty try as their powerful eight left Australia in tatters after a series of five-metre scrums.

With 25 minutes to go England were suddenly back in contention but Australia exploded into life once more as the mercurial Cooper combined with Digby Ioane for the former to score a dazzling second try.

O'Connor converted to give Australia some breathing space but their weakness up front was by now being ruthlessly exposed and England cut the gap to four points once more.

Referee Nigel Owens lost patience and sin-binned prop Salesi Ma'afu and the Wallabies duly conceded a second penalty try after their pack had again been taken apart at a five-metre scrum.

It looked as though the visitors might pull off the unlikeliest of victories but Australia were still looking very threatening when they got hold of the ball and two late penalties, from O'Connor and Barnes, ensured the more complete side ran out winners on Saturday.


Australia: O'Connor; Ioane, Horne, Barnes, Mitchell; Cooper, Burgess; Daley, Faingaa, Ma'afu, Mumm, Sharpe, Elsom, Pocock, Brown.

Replacements: Beale for O'Connor (74), Slipper for Daley (66), Chisholm for Mumm (69), Hodgson for Pocock (78).

Not Used: Edmonds, Genia, Hynes.

Sin Bin: Ma'afu (68).

England: Foden; Cueto, Tindall, Hape, Ashton; Flood, Care; Payne, Thompson, Cole, Shaw, Palmer, Croft, Moody, Easter.

Replacements: Wilkinson for Tindall (73), Youngs for Care (59), Wilson for Payne (68), Chuter for Thompson (69), Lawes for Shaw (60), Haskell for Moody (66).

Not Used: Tait.

Att: 32,228

Ref: N Owens (WRFU).



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see also
Angry Johnson criticises players
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Cueto cleared of dangerous tackle
14 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Aussie Barbarians 28-28 England
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Jeremy Guscott Q&A
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