ENGLAND maintained their dominance over Australia after digging out a hard-earned but controversial win in filthy conditions at Twickenham this afternoon.
Eddie Jones’ side lifted the Cook Cup after second-half efforts from Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May and Danny Care plus 10 points from the boot of Owen Farrell secured a fifth straight win over his home country.
However, they required a large dose of good fortune along the way and led just 13-6 before scoring three of those tries in the final eight minutes.
The Wallabies, on a seven-game unbeaten run and knowing they would take England’s No2 world ranking with victory, botched a raft of gilt-edge chances and were fuming about a number of major decisions.
They were reduced to 13 men at the end of the first half with both captain Michael Hooper and full-back Kurtley Beale yellow carded before, trailing 13-6 in the 69th minute, they had a Marika Koroibete ‘try’ ruled out by TMO Simon McDowell.
In fairness, it looked the correct call; the Wallabies winger had crashed over and eventually touched down after twisting over Chris Robshaw.
But, after a lengthy assessment, the official rightly ruled that the Australia replacement hooker Stephen Moore was in front of Koroibete and, inadvertently, hindered Robshaw’s chances of making a complete tackle.
It was a crucial point; just three minutes later, Care - the ex-Leeds Tykes scrum-half who came off the bench with a brilliant cameo - produced a lovely chip ahead for Joseph to score and ease all the pressure.
Another clever kick by Care then set up May, the winger who deserved his score after a difficult first period, before Harlequins star Care scampered in himself when May scooped up a desperate last Australia pass.
Before all that, however, the Wallabies were left cursing their own finishing.
There were still only 6-3 behind when Samu Kerevi made a scintillating 50m run swatting away defenders down England’s middle.
However, with the line gaping, his centre partner Tevita Kuridrani somehow spilled the pass.
Instead, the ball found its way to Ben Youngs who swiftly kicked to the left touchline where Daly just beat Beale to the ball to hack on and score.
Nevertheless, that effort needed careful study from TMO McDowell, too, as he had to decide whether the ball grazed the touchline before Daly intervened. Again, though, he got it right. Not that that calmed Australia’s mood.
Their coach Michael Cheika was furious at half-time, not so much that his side went in 6-0 down but with just 13 players remaining on the field.
Hooper was yellow-carded in the 33rd minute when, with his side under immense pressure on their own line and having already seen them collapse a maul, he was twice caught offside by referee Ben O’Keeffe.
Owen Farrell duly slotted the second of his two penalties but the Wallabies were reduced further in numbers when Beale was sin-binned for a contentious deliberate knock-on in the final seconds of an absorbing first period.
Farrell, straight back into the thick of it after being rested for last week’s win versus Argentina, opened the scoring with a seventh minute penalty.
The Wallabies started slowly, fly-half Bernard Foley giving one awful pass straight from a scrum, but they gradually grew into the game.
However, either through their own profligacy - Foley shunted a simple penalty wide and Hooper had a ‘try’ ruled out for being in front of the kicker - or England’s sheer cussedness, they remained scoreless.
Even with the hosts twice being hauled up for pre-engaging at the scrum, Cheika’s side could not make the possession count.
England also lost openside Sam Underhill after 17 minutes having, for the second time, got his head in the wrong place in the tackle.
That said, British Lion Maro Itoje isn’t a bad replacement.
Reece Hodge slotted a penalty in the 49th minute and Foley was accurate after Daly’s try to get his side in touching distance but England - who won the summer series 3-0 Down Under - ruled yet again.
England: Watson; May, Joseph, Farrell, Daly; Ford (Slade 70), Youngs (Care 70); M Vunipola (Marler 64), Hartley (George 57), Cole (Williams 67), Launchbury, Lawes, Robshaw, Underhill (Itoje 17), Hughes (Simmonds 63).
Australia: Beale; Koroibete, Kuridrani, Kerevi (Hunt 67), Hodge; Foley, Genia (Phipps 71); Sio, Polota-Nau (Moore 64), Kepu (Alaalatoa 67), Simmons, Enever (Philip 62), Hanigan (McCalman 40), Hooper, McMahon.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU)