England go in search of a fifth straight win over Australia this afternoon as Eddie Jones’s side continue their quest for No 1 status in world rugby.
The last time such a run was completed against the two-time world champions, it climaxed with the William Webb Ellis Cup returning to these shores for the first time courtesy of Jonny Wilkinson’s golden point 14 years ago next Wednesday.
Perhaps the catalyst to that triumph, however, came 17 years ago today when England ended their own five-game winless run against the Wallabies with a 22-19 win at Twickenham.Ed White
Perhaps the catalyst to that triumph, however, came 17 years ago today when England ended their own five-game winless run against the Wallabies with a 22-19 win at Twickenham.
And that drizzly Autumn day was also shrouded in last-gasp drama.
England secured victory with the game’s final play as winger Dan Luger touched down Iain Balshaw’s kick into the corner, but it was only confirmed after a tense wait as the video referee poured over evidence of its validity.
It was the making of a World Cup winning team, with 13 members present from England’s 22-man squad from the famous day at the Telstra Stadium.
Visibility had been poor for the 75,000 strong Twickenham crowd on November 18, 2000, and it led to a scrappy game.
England took command through two early penalties but Wilkinson’s usually reliable left-boot began to falter and poor decision-making from the hosts allowed Australia to claw back the initiative.
Despite being temporarily reduced to 14 men with David Giffin in the sin bin, the touring side grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck before half-time. Talisman Matt Burke was put into clean air from a cute Joe Roff pass and the fly-half’s conversion gave the Wallabies the lead for the first time. From 16-12, Burke added a brilliant penalty to silence a wishful home crowd.
But England dug deep with Balshaw and Dawson upping the intensity off the bench.
Wilkinson brought the score back to within four points but then wasted his next shot as a simple drop-goal opportunity went awry. Only a try could salvage victory deep into stoppage time, and it arrived after eight minutes of pressure.
Wilkinson earned a penalty in front of the posts and left for Dawson to tap and go. Captain Martin Johnson – as he did three years later – had the responsibility of the first forward carry and as quick ball returned, Balshaw provided the masterstroke.
The former Leeds Carnegie back chipped over the advancing Australian defence and winger Luger met the kind bounce to touch down one-handed close to the side whitewash.
Those in white knew the score was legitimate but the Twickenham crowd was made to wait before breaking into raptures. The broad-shouldered Wilkinson cemented the 22-19 victory with a fine conversion from the touchline as Australian fans got a first glimpse of his outstretched celebration.