England crashed to a defeat by Australia they may still be regretting in three years’ time.
England: Try: Tuilagi. Pens: Flood 3.
Australia: Try: Cummins. Pens: Barnes 5.
The Wallabies bounced back from a 33-6 thumping in France last week to dominate England, whose chances of being a top seed at their home Rugby World Cup in 2015 now look remote. England have worn purple shirts twice – against Argentina and Australia – and both times they have lost. They clawed out a half-time lead with a contentious touchdown from Manu Tuilagi after Nick Cummins had scored his first international try for the Wallabies.
But Australia turned the screw after the interval, with Berrick Barnes kicking a total of 15 points and it was not until England emptied their bench that they posed any consistent threat.
England will rue their bold decisions to kick second-half penalties to touch instead of taking points because the Wallabies defence held firm to reclaim the Cook Cup.
England now face an uphill battle to join the elite in the top band of World Cup seeds when the draw is made on 3 December. That would leave England with the prospect of facing one of the southern hemisphere giants in the pool stages.
Toby Flood kicked England into an early lead but they spent most of the first half battling to stay in the game and Barnes slotted a drop goal to bring the Wallabies level.
Flood and Barnes exchanged penalties before the Englishman’s third edged the home side ahead again. But Danny Care was punished for a loose kick and Nick Phipps launched the counter-attack that ended with Cummins streaking in for his maiden Test try.
Care made amends immediately, turning down a kickable penalty to take the quick tap. Tuilagi powered through Beale and Phipps and stretched for the line with the the TMO finally confirming he had got the ball down on the whitewash.
Barnes slotted three penalties in quick succession after the break. England piled on the pressure, but a lack of precision and poor decision making combined to ensure a very welcome victory for the Wallabies and their under-pressure Kiwi coach Robbie Deans.
England: A Goode; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, C Sharples; T Flood, D Care; J Marler, T Youngs, D Cole, G Parling, T Palmer, T Johnson, C Robshaw, T Waldron. Subs used: D Paice, M Vunipola, J Launchbury, T Wood, B Youngs, O Farrell, M Brown.
Australia: B Barnes; D Ioane, A Ashley-Cooper, B Tapuai; N Cummins; K Beale, N Phipps; B Robinson, T Polota Nau, B Alexander, S Timani, N Sharpe, D Dennis, M Hooper, W Palu. Subs used: S Moore, J Slipper, S Kepu, l Gill, D Mitchell.
Referee: R Poite (France). Attendance: 81,000.