England 26 Australia 17: Relief for Lancaster at Twickenham

England's Ben Morgan (right) celebrates with Billy Twelvetrees (left), George Ford (centre) and Ben Youngs after scoring the first try.England's Ben Morgan (right) celebrates with Billy Twelvetrees (left), George Ford (centre) and Ben Youngs after scoring the first try.
England's Ben Morgan (right) celebrates with Billy Twelvetrees (left), George Ford (centre) and Ben Youngs after scoring the first try.
IT WAS nervous, fraught and messy at times but that is probably not surprising given the circumstances.

And it matters little now; England got the job done, secured the Cook Cup and, more importantly, thankfully rescued their campaign of autumn internationals this afternoon.

A third loss, after narrow defeats against New Zealand and South Africa, would have brought real scrutiny on Stuart Lancaster and left a long, hard winter of contemplation ahead.

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It is rare England do not get at least one of the southern hemisphere scalps here and there would have been serious questioning of his capabilities as head coach ahead of the Six Nations if last week’s win over Samoa was their only success.

But Ben Morgan, the Gloucester No8 who has really enhanced his reputation since usurping Billy Vunipola, popped up with two tries at Twickenham to eventually settle a tight contest and bring much relief to the Red Rose ranks.

The next time these sides meet, of course, is here again on October 3 next year when the stakes are far greater in what should be a crucial World Cup pool game.

It is hard to venture who will be in a better state come that point - England’s scrum was again dominant but Billy Twelvetrees did nothing to suggest he is their answer at No12 and they were once more exposed too easily defensively.

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It was the Australian centre Adam Ashley-Connor who was the most dangerous player on the field but his threat was not enough for the Wallabies who have problems of their own having lost to France, Ireland and now England on their troubled European tour.

The hosts scored the only try of the first half with a superbly orchestrated move that was finished off by Morgan, scoring his second of the autumn having also crossed versus South Africa and further augmenting his position in Lancaster’s eyes.

George Ford, assured at fly-half again, initially sent Ben Barritt bulleting through before Tom Wood showed similarly deft hands to see the Gloucester forward rumble over in the 28th minute.

It came after Chris Robshaw had earned a crucial breakdown penalty at the other end, one of many instances of fine foraging from the captain, to deny Australia a clear chance, and Ford converted to make it 13-3.

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The fly-half had slotted a couple of earlier penalties in response to Bernard Foley’s fourth minute kick for the visitors but England were fortunate on a number of occasions not to concede more.

At one point, the Wallabies looked capable of breaking whenever they went wide and Twelvetrees - the third different player in as many weeks to take England’s inside centre role - endured some real problems defensively.

But they scrambled well, not least Courtney Lawes, the athletic second-row who covered deep to deny a dummying Ashley-Cooper.

Ford missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time and an easier one at the start of the second period.

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Australia instantly made them pay with a try that was far too easily created, Foley backing up after his inside pass to Rob Horne initially released the winger in midfield.

Foley converted only to be immediately replaced by Quade Cooper who duly brought all his traditional maverick qualities to the contest.

Ford was relieved when Horne could not hold an intercept which would have resulted in a try before Cooper’s pass - admittedly forward - unleashed Ashley-Cooper again, Mike Brown this time denying the lively 30-year-old.

However, England survived those scares to gain their second try, created when Brown’s clever slid kick saw Cooper tackled behind his own line.

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From the 5m scrum, they powered over with Morgan scoring again, Ford this time rediscovering his kicking boots.

Yet, infuriatingly, they immediately conceded with Ashley-Cooper breaking them up down the left and Will Skelton, the replacement lock only just on the field, plundering a try from close range for Cooper to improve.

Ford eased nerves with a penalty on 64 minutes but they were lucky again when Israel Folau, otherwise excellent for the visitors at full-back, threw a wayward pass when Horne was certain to score.

Ford’s fourth penalty at the death made sure there was no late scares.

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England: Brown; Watson, Barritt (Farrell 62 BB), Twelvetrees (Barritt 67-Yarde 78), May; Ford, Youngs (Wigglesworth 70); Marler (Mullen 54), Hartley (Webber 71), Wilson (Brookes 60), Attwood, Lawes (Kruis 54), Wood (Haskell 76), Robshaw, Morgan. Substitutes: Haskell, Yarde.

Australia: Folau; Speight (Beale 65), Ashley-Cooper, Toomua, Horne; Foley (Cooper 45), Phipps (White 50); Slipper (Robinson 67), Fainga’a (Hanson 73), Kepu (Alexander 52), Carter, Simmons (Jones 40), McMahon (Skelton 58), Hooper, McCalman.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)