Rugby: England clings to defeat Australia
England players celebrate as Courtney Lawes lifts the Ella-Mobbs Cup after winning the third Test. Photo / Photo port
England held on through a 12-phase Wallabies attack with four minutes remaining to beat Australia 21-17 and clinch the three-game series in Saturday’s decider.
England led 11-10 at half-time and 21-10 with 15 minutes remaining before a Wallabies try brought the home side closer. But England held on to win the series 2-1, the second time in six years they have won a series Down Under after beating Australia 3-0 in 2016, also under coach Eddie Jones.
Australia won the opener 30-28 in Perth on July 2 before England tied the series in Brisbane last weekend with a dominating 25-17 win.
The Wallabies created more chances on Saturday but couldn’t turn their chances into points due to England’s strong defensive effort in front of a sold-out crowd of 43,274 at the SCG.
The Wallabies delivered on their promise of a quick start, but despite dominating territory and possession, they found themselves trailing at half-time. Poor execution at key moments proved costly, with Reece Hodge sending a ball over the touchline, while prop Taniela Tupou was guilty of pushing two errant passes.
As the half-time siren sounded, England pounded the try line before fullback and man of the match Freddie Steward dived to give his side a one-point lead.
Australia’s first-half try was scored by Tom Wright. Moving the ball from a 60-yard lineout, the Wallabies charged upfield with Marika Koroibete sending a long ball to her fellow winger.
He and Nic White combined before Wright rushed down the line and Lolesio added the extras for a 7-3 lead after the 26th minute, which was stretched shortly after by three more points by Lolesio.
England playmaker Marcus Smith delivered a crucial blow in the 55th minute when an Australian lineout went awry and first five-eight Noah Lolesio failed to secure the loose ball. Smith picked it up and showed his blistering pace in the 50-yard dash to touch down, with Owen Farrell adding the extras for a 21-10 lead.
The Australians managed to fight back 10 minutes later when substitute hooker Folau Fainga’a dug in over the line, closing the gap to four points, but it was the closest they could get.
“It was a monster effort,” Steward said of the England defense during the Wallabies’ 12-phase attack. “We probably lacked a bit of physicality at the start, but we made up for it at the end. Winning a series is a big effort.”
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said his team had “no excuses, we gave ourselves a chance to win”.
“I don’t think we were clinical enough,” Hooper added. “We created some good chances, but we just weren’t good enough to finish them. There were mistakes that hurt us in the big moments.”
England skipper Courtney Lawes said his team were “holding their ground”.
“We didn’t really fire that many shots, but we found a way to win,” Lawes said.