England 18 Australia 36 - Same old story as England come off second-best ... again

England captain Sam Burgess looks dejected after the final whistle against Australia. Picture: Nigel French/PA
England captain Sam Burgess looks dejected after the final whistle against Australia. Picture: Nigel French/PA
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AT TIMES like this, you really do start thinking about digging out an old match report from a game between these sides at any point in the last decade or so and merely changing some of the names involved.

England lost against Australia again yesterday. The last time they beat them remains 1995 or, if you want to cling on to something positive, 2006 in the guise of Great Britain.

England's James Graham is tackled by Australia's Aaron Woods (left) and Trent Merrin Picture: Nigel French/PA

England's James Graham is tackled by Australia's Aaron Woods (left) and Trent Merrin Picture: Nigel French/PA

Yet it was all the old familiar failings that have dogged them so much previously; competitive at times but not for long enough, a failure to take their limited chances, the odd cringeworthy error and, of course, their stellar opponents simply being too efficient.

Wayne Bennett, the Australian coaching guru who replaced Steve McNamara as England chief in February, said it would not be a quick fix. He is clearly right but what will be the time frame for the national side finally achieving success in a major tournament?

At least in recent times, the margin of defeat was close but here they were exposed badly.

They had to avoid defeat at London Stadium to reach next Sunday’s Anfield final but that never looked likely once Greg Inglis strode over in the 47th minute for a 16-6 lead so Australia, who had already qualified, will face New Zealand instead.

Granted, there was some fine performances, particularly from the recalled second-row John Bateman and the St Helens full-back Jonny Lomax, but Australia were well-marshalled by Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston as ever.

Bennett picked his third different half-back pairing in as many weeks by naming Kevin Brown and Gareth Widdop while he had another - George Williams - on the bench, surprisingly at the expense of hooker Daryl Clark.

However, while former Huddersfield Giants captain Brown showed the odd nice touch, they simply did not have the kicking game or guile to cause the world champions sufficient problems.

They only forced one repeat set and that came in the 52nd minute.

Admittedly, England trailed just 10-6 at half-time to offer hope but some moments of absurdity, including twice missing touch with penalty kicks, pointed to the issues that would eventually derail them completely.

To do that once is bad enough but after Widdop’s error Josh Hodgson - the hooker who really should not be taking on that role - then repeated it with barely 60 seconds of the half remaining wasting a glorious chance to have one last shot at the Kangaroos and maybe get a confidence-boosting interval lead.

To make matters worse, Sam Burgess, the England captain who drew blood from David Klemmer after punching the Australian forward late on in the game, was then penalised for a pointless late shove on Boyd Cordner, allowing Thurston to slot two more points.

The hosts, in general, had defended superbly in that first period, particularly Bateman who was fearsome in protecting his own line especially when denying a jinking Cronk.

Australia pierced them just the once, thanks largely to a brilliant palmed on cut-out pass from full-back Darius Boyd that caught Ryan Hall out of position and saw Blake Ferguson dive in at the corner.

However, that was in the 35th minute, showing just how solid England had been.

They had scored the game’s opening - and similarly well-executed - try - themselves via Jermaine McGillvary after 26 minutes.

Widdop had kicked an early penalty but this time they turned down the opportunity and were rewarded when Lomax came into the line to produce a long ball for the Huddersfield Giants winger to score for the fourth successive Test this autumn.

Widdop could not convert and, unfortunately, his side proved too profligate with their few other chances of the first period.

St Helens centre Mark Percival, for instance, twice dropped inviting passes just when the tourists’ defence was looking vulnerable.

Furthermore, Kallum Watkins, the Leeds Rhinos centre who was denied by a desperate Greg Inglis, had a couple of other chances when he could maybe have backed himself but instead went wide to McGillvary.

They started the second period brightly, Brown skipping through at one point and Hodgson almost providing Sam Burgess a scoring chance, but then came that Inglis try, softly conceded from the base of a scrum.

Inglis then exposed Elliott Whitehead to give the position for Matt Scott to barge over Hodgson in the 57th minute and they scored back-to-back tries when Cronk left Percival grounded on halfway to set up Josh Dugan.

Widdop responded with a try but Matt Gillett soon powered over for Australia, Burgess punching Klemmer in a melee after the try was scored,.

Hall kept up his prolific international record when he crossed in the 76th minute, Percival finally finding some clarity as he made the final pass, but, fittingly, the Kangaroos rounded things off with a fine finish from Valentine Holmes in the corner.

England: Lomax; McGillvary, Watkins, Percival, Hall; Brown, Widdop; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Bateman, Whitehead, S Burgess. Substitutes: T Burgess, G Burgess, Cooper, Williams.

Australia: Boyd; Holmes, Inglis, Dugan, Ferguson; Thurston, Cronk; Scott, Smith, Woods, Cordner, Gillett, Merrin. Substitutes: Klemmer, Morgan, Frizell, Thaiday.

Referee: Robert Hicks (England).