England 37 Australia 21: Eddie Jones's side thump Wallabies at Twickenham
IT WAS fitting that, in breaking new ground like this, England were truly forced to graft, battle and fight for their record-equalling 14th successive victory today.
Eddie Jones’ side, who completed a 100 per cent success rate in the calendar year for the first time during the professional era, came from 10-0 behind to defeat Australia at Twickenham.
In doing so, they also won all four autumn internationals for the first time but pure statistics do not this justice; it was a significant victory for England who shrugged off the absence of their talisman No8 Billy Vunipola - as well as the likes of Maro Itoje and James Haskell don’t forget - to eventually eviscerate the team that was expected to give them their toughest test yet.
With effervescent scrum-half Ben Youngs continuing his brilliant form, centre Jonathan Jospeh claiming two tries, Owen Farrell proving faultless with the boot and, in the second half at least, England’s pack grinding the tourists down, it proved a superb end to the campaign. And a fourth consecutive win over the Wallabies.
For Jones, the Australian who has won all 13 games since taking charge from Stuart Lancaster and spent much of the week beforehand sparring with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, it must have proved deeply satisfying.
That is all the more so given in the opening quarter. England looked like a side that had never even won for a year let alone one seeking a full 12 months of victories.
They started badly and got worse as the visitors took a 10-0 lead that could - and should - so easily have been more.
Their fly-half Bernard Foley shanked an easy penalty wide inside three minutes but it wasn’t long before they did score.
England escaped embarrassment when, in almost comedic style, first Farrell and then Mike Brown both failed to deal with Dane Haylett-Petty’s kick down the wing, each failing to make the ball safe behind their own goalline.
Tevita Kuridrani thought he had touched down in the melee but video replays showed David Pocock had nudged forward when a grounded Farrell initially tried passing off the floor.
Nevertheless, England somehow managed to lose the 5m scrum as the ball ricocheted off hooker Dylan Hartley’s knee and, with alarming ease, Haylett-Petty’s long pass saw fellow winger Sefa Naivalu in at the opposite corner.
Foley converted and then his sharp pass from the restart to Reece Hodge saw Naivalu leaving the England defence in his wake once more - it was a clear tactic to try and expose incoming winger Marland Yarde that worked well early on.
George Ford dropped a simple pass when looking to clear his lines to invite further pressure in their own territory and they were lucky Sekope Kepu did not score, the hosts just preventing the burrowing tighthead from grounding.
Similarly Kuridrani scrambled over, too, from close range but England did just enough.
However, it did not hide the fact that, after 15 minutes, they had barely got out of their own half and had not once reached the Wallabies’ 22.
There was enough respite, at last, for Farrell to nudge over a penalty in the 19th minute but their initial frailties were highlighted again when Michael Hooper advanced clear from halfway.
Israel Folau - Australia’s most dangerous player - got close but England, crucially, turned them over and turned defence into attack as Ford broke clear and kicked on for Yarde to almost score at the other end.
It was a pivotal point; they never looked back from there and Australia will be kicking themselves.
Farrell tagged on another penalty and then he hacked on as Kepu spilled on halfway, Joseph claiming the ball to score his first.
Farrell converted for 13-10 and, though Foley slotted another two for a 16-13 interval lead, England utterly dominated the second period.
Two tries at the start of it quickly swung the game back in their favour.
First, after some relentless pressure, a well-judged angled grubber from Joseph saw Folau in trouble and Yarde - recalled for the banned Elliot Daly - just won the race to the bouncing ball for Farrell to improve.
Then, Leicester scrum-half Youngs showed real initiative by taking a quick penalty tap just 10m from the Australia line, catching their defence dozing before dummying opposite number Nick Phipps - Yarde the foil - and jubilantly sprinting over.
He is in fine form currently and comfortably won the man-of-the-match.
Farrell converted and added another penalty meaning Kefu’s smart try, showing great pace for a big man, against the run of play was futile.
When Haylett-Petty was harshly sin-binned for a meek swinging arm on Mike Brown’s body, England resumed normal service, Joseph intercepting Pocock’s pass on the Australia 22 for his second try, Ford converting.
England: Brown; Yarde, Joseph, Farrell (Sio 67), May; Ford, Youngs (Care 63); M Vunipola (Marler 59), Hartley (George 59), Cole (Snickler 61), Lawes, Kruis (Ewels 73), Robshaw (Harrison 69), Wood, Hughes.
Australia: Folau; Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Hodge (Cooper 69), Naivalu (Speight 69); Foley, Phipps (Frisby 69); Sio (Robertson 58), Moore (Latu 73), Kepu (Slipper 73), Douglas (Mumm 61), Simmons, Pocock, Hooper, Timani (McMahon 62).