England 9-18 Australia, Twickenham, November 7
Wallabies get back to winning ways
Graham Jenkins
November 7, 2009
Date/Time: Nov 7, 2009, 14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
England 9 - 18 Australia
Attendance: 82020  Half-time: 9 - 5
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drops: Wilkinson
Tries: Ashley-Cooper, Genia
Cons: Giteau
Pens: Giteau 2

Australia kicked off their latest tilt at a Grand Slam tour with an impressive 18-9 victory over England at Twickenham.

Tries from man-of-the-match Will Genia and Adam Ashley-Cooper helped the Wallabies retain the Cook Cup and bounce back from a disappointing run of six defeats in their last seven games. The boot of fly-half Jonny Wilkinson had kicked England into a narrow half-time lead but they were unable to sustain their efforts after the break with the battle-hardened visitors notching a fully-deserved success.

Both sides entered the match under pressure to impress but both had been frustrated by injuries in the build up. Wilkinson, whose last Test appearance was during the 2008 Six Nations, was joined in the line-up by fellow 2003 Rugby World Cup winners Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody. Otherwise injury-ravaged England fielded an unfamiliar side with two debutants in Ayoola Erinle and Courtney Lawes included on the bench.

Australia started as strong favourites despite fielding a team every bit as makeshift as England's. Test centurion George Smith was restored at openside but there was an all-new centre partnership in Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane.

Wilkinson famously put paid to Australia's World Cup hopes with a drop goal in the 2003 tournament finale and he opened the scores with another sweetly-struck effort after just two minutes. England's impressive industry continued to cause the Wallabies problems and when Peter Hynes was penalised for playing the ball off his feet Wilkinson nailed the penalty to extend his side's lead.

A rock solid lineout and cohesive forward effort ensured England dominated the early stages in terms of possession and territory and that hunger led to another scoring opportunity on the quarter hour. A bullish Wilkinson lined up a shot at the posts from the half-way line after Genia had been swamped by England chasers - but this time the No.10's effort came back off the woodwork.

Australia rallied and enjoyed some success at the set-piece but found their hosts equally committed in defence and were often forced to give the ball some air. But the Wallabies were eventually rewarded for their efforts with the opening try of the game midway through the half. Some strong running from Ashley-Cooper took the visitors close before a gaping hole in the England defence allowed Genia to dart over for his first international try. Matt Giteau was unable to add the extras to leave England with a narrow one-point lead.

Back came England with prop David Wilson and centre Dan Hipkiss taking the attack to Australia before scrum-half Danny Care opted for a chip to the corner in the knowledge his side had a penalty. Flankers Lewis Moody and Tom Croft both failed to get a decisive touch on the ball but Wilkinson made no mistake with the subsequent kick.

Hooker Stephen Moore and then prop Benn Robinson showed great handling and acceleration to drive deep into the England 22 as the half drew to a close but Wilkinson showed he has lost none of the mettle from the physical side of the game by driving Mark Chisholm back towards his own line. From the resulting scrum Giteau tried to conjure an opening but again found the door slammed shut by Wilkinson.

Australia began the second half brightly with Moore and skipper Rocky Elsom going close to scoring only to be denied by a resolute England defence - with Wilkinson at the heart again - but the hosts drifted offside in their attempts to scramble the loose ball away. Fears over the Wallabies' apparent white-line fever were allayed by Giteau's first penalty of the game.

The visitors were soon pressing again but England were up for the challenge, tackling the Wallabies into submission and the hosts looked dangerous on the counter with Shane Geraghty given time and space to exploit but it was an all-too-rare foray into Australian territory. Australia were firmly in control of proceedings, if not on the scoreboard, with Drew Mitchell and Ashley-Cooper almost combining for a try.

Yet more desperate defence was the order of the day for England after the brilliant Genia put Ioane into space but despite spinning out of a couple of tackles the centre was unable to claim what looked to be a certain score. England replacement Duncan Bell was then harshly penalised for collapsing the scrum to allow Giteau to put his side into the lead for the first time in the game on the hour mark.

To their credit, England battled their way back into the game, with Erinle and Lawes making their debuts off the bench, and the result was several phases of controlled possession but they could not find an opening and they were duly punished. Quick ball from Genia found Ashley-Cooper out wide and the fullback showed great strength to hold off the combined tackle of Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto to force his way over for the score. Giteau's conversion turned the screw with an excellent conversion.

And the Wallabies' bench were up on their feet again at the final whistle having kicked off their quest in the best possible way.

© Scrum.com

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