England have wrapped up an unprecedented 3-0 whitewash over Australia with a thrilling 44-40 victory in Sydney. Eddie Jones’s team scored four tries to register their ninth win in nine matches since he took charge and inflict the Wallabies’ worst home series drubbing since 1971.
Once again it proved to be a memorable Test, with the lead repeatedly changing hands and Owen Farrell’s near-faultless goal-kicking playing a crucial part. The centre kicked 24 points to add to tries from Dan Cole, Mike Brown, Billy Vunipola and Jamie George as England racked up their highest score in Australia, beating the record they established in the first Test in Brisbane.
On a cool, clear Sydney night the pace of the game was frequently breathless, with England having already safely secured the Cook Cup. The outcome hung in the balance until deep in the final quarter, with George’s 67th minute try ultimately decisive.
The reserve hooker was slightly fortunate when the ball rebounded off his shins and enabled him to score by the posts. England, though, deserved their win at the end of a marathon season, having looked threatening even before Cole crashed over in the 11th minute for only his third try in 68 Test appearances.
England’s early defence, however, was slightly less watertight than it had been in Melbourne. What they imagined was a forward pass from Dane Haylett-Petty to Israel Folau also turned out to be a knock back off the hand of Maro Itoje and Bernard Foley duly punished their uncertainty to level the scores.
The hosts had a second try on the board after 20 minute, England running out of numbers as slick Wallaby handling put Haylett-Petty over in the corner for his first Test try. Farrell and Foley exchanged futher penalties before England regained the lead, Anthony Watson kicking ahead down the left for the combative Brown to gather and hold off the cover for a try converted by the deadly Farrell.
In the absence of James Haskell, England were not making much headway at the breakdown against a more urgent home pack and Jones again chose not to wait until half-time to fix the problem.
Off came Teimana Harrison, whose parents had flown over from New Zealand to watch him, after just 31 minutes with Courtney Lawes coming into the second-row and the versatile Itoje switching to six.
As with Luther Burrell’s brutal early substitution in Brisbane, it was a bold intervention that made a discernible difference. Although Australia edged into an 18-17 lead at half-time courtesy of Foley’s second penalty, Billy Vunipola rampaged off the back of a scrum to score England’s third try three minutes after the interval to regain the initiative.
While the Wallabies found life increasingly uncomfortable at the set-pieces, they retained their ability to strike when given half a chance. First Hooper and then Folau, after more missed tackles from England, added further tries before Farrell kicked his fourth penalty to narrow the gap to a single point at the start of the final quarter.
A helter-skelter finale ensued, with a poor pass from Nick Phipps giving England the chance to go back in front through George’s unorthodox score. Farrell kicked a further penalty and a late score from Taqele Naiyaravolo proved a mere consolation. The attendance of 44,063 was a ground record, beating the previous best when Australia’s footballers played Argentina in 1993.