- Much-improved England defeat Australia for first win Down Under since 2003
- Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton score stunning first-half tries
By Sky Sports
Australia 20 England 21
England returned to the scene of their 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph with a memorable 21-20 victory over Australia as Ben Youngs and Chris Ashton scored their maiden England tries in the second Test in Sydney.
England, without a 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 70 minutes and no-one could argue that they thoroughly deserved the win.
Tries from Leicester Tigers scrum half Youngs and Northampton Saints wing Ashton, plus two penalties from Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers) and another from Jonny Wilkinson (RC Toulon) secured the single point victory.
Despite Australia centre 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 the 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 Flood had no problem putting England into an early 3-0 lead.
Giteau levelled the scores five minutes later though, after prop Tim Payne (London Wasps) was given a talking to by referee Romain Poite.
Giteau needed no encouragement either, when on 16 minutes Northampton lock Courtney Lawes – making his first England start – was caught off his feet at the ruck, putting his side in front with a 50m kick from the right touchline.
Superb sniping try from Youngs
Photo: Getty Images
But just two minutes later England hit back with their first try, a magnificent effort by 20-year-old full debutant Youngs, who combined his blistering pace with sharp vision when he blasted through a gap at the back of the lineout and jinked his way to the line for his first Test try.
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 reaped rewards.
Ironically it was thanks to an unusually solid Wallaby scrum, which provided platform for Digby Ioane to dart through the hole as England's defence targeted Cooper.
Giteau, whose decoy run had opened the gap, collected the wing'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.
Ashton finished fine team move
Photo: Getty Images
Within four minutes they had the Wallabies rocking again with a wonderfully worked first Test try for wing Ashton.
Hooker Steve Thompson's (CA Brive) pick up and drive saw the ball quickly out to Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), who delivered a neat inside pass to Ashton for the wing to accelerate to the line.
Flood missed the conversion to leave the scores at 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, leaving England with a thoroughly deserved 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 scrum half Will Genia at the start of the move.
A sweeping move to the right saw the Aussie scrum half spread the ball wide to full back James O'Connor, who used his pace down the touchline to open up a hole in England's defence before feeding wing Drew 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.
Flood closed the gap to two points on 46 minutes as England continued to take the game to the Aussies.
Wilkinson returns to haunt Australia in Sydney
Photo: Getty Images
Wilkinson entered the fray to replace Flood as the clock hit 50 minutes, much to the delight of the 48,000 strong Sydney crowd.
Within a minute, England's hero of Sydney 2003, who is both admired and feared in equal measures Down Under, had put his side back 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, with the hosts still trailing by a single point.
And as the game entered its final ten minutes the usually metronomic kicker missed again, this time an absolute howler from almost in front.
But he was not alone with his poor targeting 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 game clock ticked down to leave Giteau and the rest of his nation desperately regretting that missed penalty.
Australia vs England teams
Australia: James O'Connor; Digby Ioane, Rob Horne, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben Daley, Saia Faingaa, Salesi Ma'afu, Dean Mumm, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom (captain), David Pocock, Richard Brown.
Replacements: Huia Edmonds (for Faingaa, 72), James Slipper (for Ma'afu, 53), Mark Chisholm (for Mumm, 54), Matt Hodgson, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper (for Ioane, 63).
England: Ben Foden (Northampton Saints); Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), Shontayne Hape (Bath Rugby), Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints); Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Tim Payne (London Wasps), Steve Thompson (CA Brive), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers, capt), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: George Chuter (Leicester Tigers for Thompson, 71), David Wilson (Bath Rugby for Cole, 5-12, for Payne, 71), Simon Shaw (London Wasps for Lawes, 58), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Danny Care (Harlequins for Youngs, 66), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon for Flood, 50), Delon Armitage (London Irish - for Tindall, 68).