LONDON: Inspired by a halftime parade from the 2003 World Cup-winning squad, England came from behind to beat Australia 20-13 at Twickenham yesterday and put down a marker for the 2015 tournament.
Australia led 13-6 at halftime after a try from centre Matt Toomua as Owen Farrell missed three of his five penalty attempts but the hosts were re-energised after the break and were deserved winners of the first of three home November tests.
Australia, seeking a fourth win from five games at Twickenham, showed only glimpses of their dangerous attacking prowess and fell to their eighth defeat in 11 tests this year.
With the two sides due to meet back on the same ground in the pool phase of the 2015 World Cup it was an important victory for England, who have now won eight of their last nine games.
“I was pleased to get the win, no doubt about it,” said England coach Stuart Lancaster.
“We conceded a soft try but what I was really pleased about was the composure in the second half.
“We had a lot of young lads out there but I think we deserved it in the end. “It was a stop-start first half and we didn’t get the momentum but the second half was about patience, not chasing the scoreboard.
“We didn’t get everything right in the last 20 minutes but we did enough.”
In a tight first half, played almost entirely between the two 22-metre lines, England edged the possession but failed to take advantage of their penalties while Australia scored the only try after a typically enterprising move.
Farrell missed three successive shots, all well within his range from the same area out on the left, but slotted two after England got on top in the scrum.
Australia, though, struck after an explosive run by Israel Folau opened the way for centre Toomua to blast through Billy Twelvetrees and score from short range.
Quade Cooper converted and landed two penalties to give the Wallabies a 13-6 halftime lead and leave England worried.
Ten years ago England beat Australia to win the World Cup, an event being celebrated all month with a series of “legends” matches and dinners and the players from both teams were guests of honour at Twickenham and England paraded on the pitch at halftime.
Perhaps the presence of the class of 2003, and a glimpse of the Webb Ellis Cup, lifted England and, after Cooper missed an easy penalty, the home side finally found some pace and aggression.
Marlon Yarde, who scored two great tries on his debut in Argentina in June, brought the crowd to their feet with an electric break on the left wing after brilliant work by man of the match fullback Mike Brown, but a superb covering tackle by Adam Ashley-Cooper prevented the try.
England managed to spoil the subsequent lineout, however, then charged down Will Genia’s clearance to allow captain Chris Robshaw to pounce in the 50th minute. Seven minutes later Farrell slipped through a hole in the Australian defence - caused, the visitors claimed, by an obstruction - to score the second. The flyhalf converted and suddenly England had completed a 14-point swing to lead 20-13.
Cooper missed the chance to reduce it when he sent another penalty wide after 67 minutes but it was a rare attack by the Australians, who were making mistakes all over the field.