THE long wait goes on for England’s next victory over the Australians but the inquest into this performance should be just as lengthy, writes Dave Craven.
Not in terms of Steve McNamara’s side – they showed enough signs to know they can beat New Zealand in Hull next week to still reach the Gillette Four Nations final – but the actual display of rookie referee Henry Perenara.
Two crucial decisions in as many minutes left England fuming as this game, in which they trailed just 12-8 at half-time, began to slip away.
Greg Inglis had legitimately extended the Australians lead shortly after the re-start but there was nothing legitimate about Tony Williams’ shocking high tackle that floored England second-row Ben Westwood in the 47th minute.
Kiwi Perenara, who only made his Test debut officiating England v Wales last week, spotted the clear offence but somehow decided not to brandish a card when there would have been few complaints with a red.
Instead, the blatant foul, which saw the Warrington player require lengthy treatment, only went on report but worse was to come barely 60 seconds later.
Hull FC winger Tom Briscoe scrambled out of Darius Boyd’s tackle to touch down only for Perenara to rule a double movement.
The big-screen replays clearly showed otherwise but the stubborn official refused England players’ pleas to consult video referee Ian Smith.
Soon after, Australian loose forward Anthony Watmough punched England replacement Gareth Widdop as the game threatened to boil over and, typically, the Kangaroos - who last lost against Great Britain in 2006 - doubled the pain, Cooper Cronk ushering Paul Gallen over with a smartly disguised pass in the 53rd minute.
Keighley-born Jack Reed scored his third try in as many internationals as he collected Kevin Sinfield’s hanging kick to stroll over and threaten a comeback but Boyd - switched to full-back after Billy Slater was taken off with a serious shoulder injury - made sure for the tourists in the 73rd minute.
Sam Tomkins, who had produced a sublime pass at the end of the first half to allow Reed to send Ryan Hall over, did so again at the death, this time creating a score for Chris Heighington but their opponents had the last word when Chris Lawrence rolled over.
England had started well when Leeds Rhinos winger Hall crossed from club-mate Sinfield’s long pass in the 11th minute.
Slater - the newly-crowned world player of the year - injured his shoulder trying to stop him and had to depart.
He is likely to miss the rest of the tournament but it did not deter the determined Kangaroos.
They took the lead just six minutes later when Boyd fired out a pass and Inglis flicked on for Luke Lewis to score, Jonathan Thurston kicking the first of six conversions.
Then, when Rangi Chase’s 20m re-start kick went awry, Williams barged through Heighington’s weak effort for a simple score which was again improved.
Hall’s second left England in a good state at the break as a crowd of 42,344 witnessed the first return of international rugby league to Wembley since 1997.
But then came those contentious decisions to de-rail their plans.
England: Tomkins; Hall, Reed, Yeaman, Briscoe; Sinfield, Chase; Graham, Roby, Peacock, Ellis, Westwood, Heighington. Substitutes: Widdop, Morley, Jones-Buchanan, Wilkin.
Australia: Slater; Uate, Lawrence, Inglis, Boyd; Lockyer, Thurston; Galle, Smith, M Scott, Lewis, Thaiday, Watmough. Substitutes: Cronk, Galloway, Shillington, Williams.
Referee: Henry Perenara (NZ)