England retained the Cook Cup at Twickenham today, defeating World Champions Australia by one point in an electrifying match which gave them two wins out of two in the Investec Challenge matches.
In one of the most exciting games seen at Twickenham they led 16-13 at half-time only to find themselves 31-19 adrift after just nine minutes of the second-half.
But in a glorious, breath-taking, fight back two Jonny Wilkinson penalties, to go with his four previous attempts, had them within six points of the visitors, 25-31. On 67 minutes, the lively Ben Cohen burst through the Aussie's mid-field to notch his second try, which Wilkinson converted with ease.
With England leading by a point, the final 19 minutes of the match had the 75,000, Twickenham crowd at fever pitch as England clung to their one point lead and battled it out to a thrilling climax.
England head coach Clive Woodward said: "This was the best Australian team of the last three years and at one stage it look as if it was going their way. We got ourselves in a corner but we managed coolly and calmly to get ourselves out of it. It was a tremendous test match and we should applaud everyone out there. Everyone today saw a great game of rugby."
Having taken the visitors' early pressure, England went in front on nine minutes with a try that came originally from Investec Challenge Man of the Match Matt Dawson's break up the left-wing.
That move ended with a line-out on the right but from the resulting play England swept infield and full back Jason Robinson and wing James Simpson-Daniel combined to send in Cohen for his first try.
The visitors hit back immediately with two penalties from full back Matt Burke only for Wilkinson to reply soon after when prop Patricio Noriega was penalised for handling in a ruck and he hit a thundering 51 metre place kick to put England 10-6 in front.
Two more on 36 and 39 minutes stretched the lead to 16-6 only for the visitors to end the half camped in the England 22 and opting for a scrum rather than a penalty kick. Centre Elton Fatley carved out a huge hole in the England back line to scamper over and for Burke to add the conversion.
Having been dominated by England for most of the half it was the confidence booster Australia wanted and they came out all guns blazing to start the second half.
Three minutes into it they took the lead for the first time when rugby league convert and wing Wendell Sailor scored his first try on the end of Flatley's long pass.
Burke missed the conversion but made no mistake four minutes later when Flatley picked up a loose ball from the side of an England ruck inside their own 22 and tore off down the pitch, beating Robinson for pace to touchdown. When Burke added another penalty minutes later England looked in deep trouble at 28-16 down and, although Wilkinson replied from the spot four minutes later, Burke again replied for the visitors to retain the 12 point gap, 31-19.
Then England started their rear-guard action with Wilkinson giving them hope with two more penalties to take his tally to 20 points. Finally, a combination of Dawson and James Simpson-Daniel cleverly put Cohen clean through the middle for the clinching try and for Wilkinson to kick the winning conversion.
For England Dawson had his best game for a long time to win the Man of the Match award while up front there were some outstanding performances but particularly from flanker Lewis Moody who's improving with every game.
ENGLAND: Robinson; Simpson-Daniel, Greenwood, Tindall, Cohen; Wilkinson, Dawson; Leonard, Thompson, Vickery; Johnson, Kay; Moody, Back, Hill. Reps - Regan, Morris, Grewcock, Dallaglio, Gomersall, Healey, Stimpson.
AUSTRALIA: Burke; Sailor, Herbert, Flatley, Mortlock; Larkham, Gregan; Young, Paul, Noriega; Vivkerman, Harrison; Cockbain, Smith, Kefu. Reps - Freier, Darwin, Giffin, Croft, Whitaker, Giteau, Staniforth.
SCORING: 9m Cohen try, Wilkinson con 7-0; 12m Burke pen 7-3; 16m Burke pen 7-6; 19m Wilkinson pen 10-6; 36m Wilkinson pen 13-6; 39m Wilkinson pen 16-6; 44m Flatley try, Burke con 16-13; H/T 16-13 - 3m Sailor try, 16-18; 6m Flatley try, Burke con 16-25; 9m Burke pen 16-28; 13m Wilkinson pen 19-28; 15m Burke pen 19-31; 19m Wilkinson pen 22-31; 25m Wilkinson pen 25-31; 27m try Cohen, Wilkinson con 32-31