Second Test Match Report - Australia 7 England 23
England claim first series win in Australia courtesy of Owen Farrell
Australia 7-23 England (England lead three-Test series 2-0)
It has taken a while but England are finally celebrating their first major series win in the southern hemisphere.
A hard-fought 23-7 victory over Australia in Melbourne has given them an unbeatable 2-0 lead with one Test still to play and will also ensure they rise to second in the World Rugby rankings with only world champions New Zealand ahead of them.
No previous June tour by England has ever yielded a series victory over Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, ensuring a unique place in red rose history for Eddie Jones's side. It took an often heroic defensive effort to deliver it, sealed by a 74th minute try from Owen Farrell.
Several English forwards put in a remarkable shift, with the Vunipola brothers, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Dan Cole all outstanding.
The Wallabies enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in terms of territory and possession but only rarely pierced the English defensive screen. The game will also be remembered for the sub-standard quality of the pitch, which cut up badly from an early stage. A team of groundsmen were required to replace large divots following the majority of scrums and the shifting surface was patently unfit for a top-quality game of international rugby union.
England, though, were not going to allow anything to distract them from their overriding objective. A 12th minute bust-up involving several players from both sides reflected the intensity of the contest and the level of commitment on both sides was colossal throughout.
It made for a feisty, rugged game in which both packs saw plenty of action. Prior to the match England had made no secret of their desire to strike hard in the opening 20 minutes and duly took the lead with a rolling maul try finished by Dylan Hartley and converted by Farrell. A Farrell penalty soon extended that advantage to 10-0 but the Wallabies hit back with a close-range driven try of their own from their own skipper Stephen Moore.
While England still went in ahead at half-time they made life more difficult for themselves than it might have been when Billy Vunipola kicked the ball out before the hooter had sounded, allowing Australia the chance to launch another protracted wave of attacks. Twenty one phases later the visiting line was still intact but, with emotions still running high, there was some pushing and shoving in the tunnel as the players left the field.
Television replays also showed the Australian flanker Michael Hooper throwing a handful of sand in the face of his opposite number James Haskell as they packed down at a scrum. The home supporters were also growing restive, booing loudly as Farrell lined up a penalty attempt to extend the visitors' lead. The fly-half slotted it anyway, setting the scene for a positively brutal last half hour.
England spent large chunks of it on the defensive, showing huge levels of commitment and courage to keep the fired-up Wallabies at bay. They were also helped by the hosts' decision to spurn two kickable penalties in favour of fruitless driven lineouts but Farrell's late try, after a kick ahead from replacement hooker Jamie George, removed any doubts.
The last time Australia lost the opening two tests of a three match series at home was against South Africa in 1971.
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