- Second-half surge and first Test tries for Robshaw and Farrell secure win
- Australia led 13-6 at the break after Toomua try
England 20 Australia 13
Maiden Test tries from Chris Robshaw and Owen Farrell in the second half were enough for England to defeat Australia 20-13 in the opening QBE International at Twickenham Stadium.
Stuart Lancaster’s men went in 13-6 down at the break after a clinical try from Wallaby centre Matt Toomua and eight points from impressive fly half Quade Cooper, but surged back in the second period, inspired by relentless flankers Robshaw and Tom Wood.
England were not at their best – with some glaring defensive mistakes, missed kicks and lineout errors marring the first 40 minutes – but Lancaster will be delighted with the resolve in his troops, built on a selfless culture in the squad.
Billy Vunipola's ball-carrying impressed on his home debut, Mike Brown sparkled throughout and with Farrell finishing with 15 points, England won their fifth successive home game for the first time since 2003.
Farrell opened the scoring with his first kick on five minutes after the visibly pumped-up Tom Youngs fired into a breakdown and forced hulking Wallaby centre Tevita Kuridrani to cling-on on the deck.
That initial success from tee was not the precursor for a flurry of first-half points from the Saracens man, who missed three presentable chances from similar positions. England were completely dominant at scrum time, with Mako Vunipola putting Ben Alexander under all sorts of pressure, and, coupled with impressive ruck speed, the penalties kept coming.
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Cooper, who was to the fore with ball-in-hand in the early stages, had levelled the scores on ten minutes before England had their best spell of the half.
Brown gathered his own kick in Australia’s half to get the crowd on their feet and when Vunipola showed exactly why Graham Rowntree was so keen to fast-track him into his starting pack, Farrell had a more simple chance. The Saracens No.8 crashed through three would-be tacklers and when Australia infringed on the floor, it was 6-3 to the hosts on the half-hour mark.
But then Australia, with their first incursion into England’s 22, struck with typical efficiency moments later. Cooper’s accurate long pass isolated Chris Ashton and Israel Folau galloped clear. When the powerful rugby league convert was hauled down, strong drives from Scott Fardy – who later departed with a head injury – and Sitaleki Timani gave the space for Toomua to crash through Billy Twelvetrees’ poor tackle and score.
Cooper improved Toomua’s second Test try to make the score 10-6 and almost immediately extended the lead by three more after Twelvetrees went off his feet at a ruck.
England emerged after the break with intent but a couple of passes went to ground as the attack tried to force proceedings. A momentum shift was needed and it was Brown who stepped up.
The crowd were already on their feet after Cooper missed his first kick of the match and the Harlequins full back somehow kept a kick to touch in play and dummied the nearest man to set-off on a powerful slaloming run past four defenders.
That field position eventually led to a chance for Marland Yarde down the left on 50 minutes but when he was bundled into touch by Adam Ashley-Cooper’s fine covering tackle, the Wallabies had to contend with a lineout on their own line. Possession was secured but a combination of Wood and Mako Vunipola did superbly to block Will Genia’s clearing box-kick and leave Robshaw with the simple task of flopping on the ball for his maiden Test try.
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The visitors were rattled and England exerted their best spell of pressure deep in Australia’s 22, with Farrell the ultimate beneficiary nine minutes later. Billy Vunipola yet again ran hard down the middle and the backs spun the ball from side to side.
Wallaby hooker Stephen Moore was in the defensive line and ran into replacement hooker Hartley when he was struggling to get across, leaving Farrell to dummy and step over next to the posts. Farrell converted both tries and within 10 minutes England had scored 14 unanswered points to take a seven-point lead as the game approached the final quarter.
Brown, named man of the match for an aggressive and incisive performance, nearly grabbed a first Test score of his own soon after – Kuridrani got just enough downward pressure in the dead-ball area – as England had all the territory, but no more points to show for it.
Cooper missed a 47-metre penalty chance on 67 which would have trimmed the lead to just four points and when the pressure came on England in their 22 late in the game, their committed defence held out.
Replacement scrum half Nic White orchestrated a series of carries from his forwards around the fringes before releasing Cooper, whose long pass found Folau in a great deal of space on the right-hand side.
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However, the full back was engulfed by three England defenders, including debutant centre Joel Tomkins, and as Australia attempted to re-gather momentum, there was a knock-on.
The hosts won a penalty and looked to be closing out the game in assured style, Courtney Lawes soaring to secure a lineout and incite a powerful driving maul. But replacement tighthead David Wilson fumbled to hand Ewen McKenzie's men one last opportunity.
Cooper fed Kuridrani, but Tomkins and Farrell were equal to the challenge and held him up. George Clancy awarded England a scrum and, fittingly, Wilson atoned for his handling mistake to force yet another penalty and send HQ into raptures.
Farrell hoofed the ball into the stand to ensure England's season embarked on a triumphant note. Argentina arrive at Twickenham next Saturday, and will meet a buoyant side.
England vs Australia teams
England: Brown; Ashton, Tomkins, Twelvetrees, Yarde; Farrell, Dickson; M Vunipola, T Youngs, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Hartley for T Youngs (54), Marler for M Vunipola (54), B Youngs for Dickson (54), Wilson for Cole (66), Morgan for B Vunipola (66), Flood for Twelvetrees (66), Attwood for Launchbury (75).
Not Used: Foden.
Australia: Folau; Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Toomua, Cummins; Cooper, Genia; Slipper, Moore, Alexander, Timani, Horwill, Fardy, Hooper, Mowen.
Replacements: McCalman for Fardy (49), Kepu for Alexander (49), Foley for Ashley-Cooper (49), Robinson for Slipper (61), Douglas for Timani (62), White for Genia (66), Faingaa for Moore (68),
Not Used: Lealiifano.