Australia sealed a Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-finals berth with a 33-13 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday night, ending the host’s tournament in the pool stages.
The visitors set up the win with an almost flawless first half performance and carried a 17-3 advantage into the break on the back of a Bernard Foley double.
Things didn’t go all the Wallabies’ way, when a 17-point deficit early in the second half was narrowed to just seven with 15 minutes to play.
But a yellow card to England flyhallf Owen Farrell gave the Wallabies a settling penalty goal and from there the men in gold wrested control of the match until Matt Giteau put the finishing touches on an emphatic victory with a try in the corner on full time.
The Wallabies left much of the talk to England this week, while coach Michael Cheika spoke about his own side’s internal belief, a quality that showed in front of an 81,080 strong crowd in their pivotal pool match.
The win puts Australia seven points clear of England with one match remaining, securing their spot in the knock-out stages and setting up a showdown with Wales to decide Pool A at the same venue in a week’s time.
It was flyhalf Bernard Foley who led the way for the Australians, with an electrifying first half that yielded two tries for the number 10, after opening the scoring with a penalty goal in the sixth minute.
The first came from a superb Sekope Kepu offload in the 20th minute, Foley charging through a gap and evaded Joe Launchbury to score. The second a quickfire one-two with Kurtley Beale on a beautifully executed set play that sped past the English defence.
Foley commanded the midfield throughout the match, scoring 28 of Australia's 33 points, including a perfect seven-from-seven in front of goal.
What was billed as the biggest Rugby World Cup pool match of all time lived up to the hype and the Wallabies played to their strengths early, using speed and width to put pressure on England.
Australia outpaced the hosts early in the first half, with fullback Israel Folau making some ominous breaks and only a Mike Brown tackle stopped him from taking advantage of an overlap in the English defence.
Australia absorbed the English attack well, despite strong breaks from winger Jonny May and outside centre Jonathan Joseph, conceding just the one penalty goal on the scoreboard to go into half time 17-3 up.
England winger Anthony Watson kept England’s chances alive with a try in the 57th minute, converted by Owen Farrell and cutting the margin to 10 points, sparking a late resurgence.
A Wallabies mistake led to an England penalty, with Farrell making the kick from straight in front to narrow the gap to a converted try with 15 minutes remaining on the clock.
That England revival was snuffed out when Farrell was handed a yellow card for a hit on Matt Giteau off the ball. The home side were fortunate not to be reduced to 13 men, with Sam Burgess also laying a high tackle on Michael Hooper on the same phase.
Giteau played on and capped off his night with a try in the final minute, continuing his incredible World Cup renaissance.
David Pocock continued a superb tournament, alongside vice-captain Hooper, dominating England at the breakdown, with Pocock winning the most turnovers of the match.
While it was their scintillating attack that caused the most damage, the Australian scrum also showed its improvement after a week under intense spotlight.
The Wallabies won six penalties in the scrum to England’s two, a stark contrast to their loss at the same ground last November.
Australia will have a fresh injury concern this week after Rob Horne's night was ended in the 11th minute with a possible shoulder dislocation.
The Wallabies will play their final Pool A match against Wales at Twickenham next Saturday (Sunday, 11 October, 2:45am AEDT).
Australia 33 (Bernard Foley 2, Matt Giteau tries; Bernard Foley 3 cons, 4 pens) defeated England 13 (Anthony Watson try; Owen Farrell con; 2 pens)