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The Qantas Wallabies have been edged out 20-13 in a hard fought Cook Cup Test against England at Twickenham early Sunday morning (AEDT).
The Wallabies took a deserved 13-6 lead into the half time break but two key refereeing decisions saw England score two tries in a nine minute spell in the second period to turn the match around.
It was a chilly 15 degrees in London at kick off, with light rain falling, which was sure to make handling difficult and would test the Wallabies ball-in-hand game plan.
After a passionate rendition of the anthems in the jam-packed stadium Matt Toomua kicked off for the Wallabies.
A mistake from England saw Quade Cooper try to put Adam Ashley-Cooper away with a clever kick but the ball just beat him in to touch.
Israel Folau was then penalized for holding on at the breakdown as he brought back a kick and Lions flyhalf Owen Farrell made no mistake putting England up 3-0 after four minutes.
The Wallabies were then penalized with a free kick at the first scrum in an ominous sign for the Australian pack.
But a missed throw at the lineout from England gave the Wallabies an opportunity to attack and some good ball movement saw them win a penalty for offside. Cooper leveled it up 3-3 after a tight first ten minutes.
Will Genia was then caught offside giving Farrell a chance to give England back the lead but surprisingly the usually accurate No.10 missed from wide on the left.
Farrell missed again near the same spot, shortly afterwards from a second scrum penalty to keep the score at 3-all. Only time would tell how important those two missed penalties would be.
The Wallabies continued to keep the ball in hand, probing the English defence, but a knock on saw a third scrum penalty come to England.
But just as the Wallabies were having troubles at the scrum England were having real issues at the lineout, losing yet another throw-in.
A fourth scrum penalty against the Wallabies gave England another lineout and this time they retained the ball and drove forward to win another penalty attempt from Farrell.
This time the angle was closer but for a third time the usually reliable Farrell missed.
Toomua cleared but the ball didn’t go into touch and England re-launched their attack. A couple of big runs from giant 20-year-old Billy Vunipola took the ball close to the Wallabies line and home team won yet another penalty. This time Farrell was successful and England were up 6-3 on 27 minutes.
But then it was the Wallabies turn to hit back. Firstly a superb long pass from Cooper put Folau into some space as he got around England winger Chris Ashton and charged towards the England line.
He was pulled down just short but a few rucks later the ball came to Toomua who easily got through the tackle of opposite number Billy Twelvetrees to score close to the posts. Cooper converted and the Wallabies found themselves in front 10-6 after half an hour.
Three minutes later Cooper added a second penalty after another Twelvetrees error and suddenly the Wallabies were up 13-6.
Genia gave England a final chance to attack when he overcooked a clearing kick just before half time but captain Ben Mowen disrupted the dangerous rolling maul and Irish referee George Clancy blew the whistle for half time with Ewen McKenzie’s men surprise leaders 13-6.
The second half started as the first had ended with another short-arm scrum penalty to England. But it was the Men of Gold who had a chance to go further ahead on 46 minutes.
Blockbusting Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani made a strong run palming off England debutant Joel Tomkins and the ball came to Ashley-Cooper who kicked ahead.
England winger Marland Yarde then cynically took out Ashley-Cooper after the kick and Cooper was given a chance to extend the Wallabies lead, but his attempt from the right scraped the outside of the left hand upright.
Ashley-Cooper then turned hero at the other end stopping Yarde metres short after a dangerous run down the left touchline. Although it was questionable the run should have been allowed as England fullback Mike Brown had clearly stepped into touch near his own line at the start of the move.
Brumbies backrower Scott Fardy was then replaced due to injury, which brought on Force No.8 Ben McCalman. Sekope Kepu also came on for Ben Alexander as Bernard Foley came on for a blood-bin for Ashley-Cooper, who had been cut making the superb covering-tackle on Yarde.
England then made full advantage of the failure for Brown to be called in touch as Genia’s try-line clearing kick was charged down and captain Chris Robshaw fell on the ball to score. Farrell converted and it was all square 13-13 after 50 minutes.
The Wallabies then suffered another extremely tough call on 57 minutes that saw England take the lead.
With Lions scrumhalf Ben Youngs now on England’s attack immediately looked more fluid. They attacked the Wallabies line through 12 phases but Australia’s defence looked to be holding firm.
But then English reserve hooker Dylan Hartley clearly obstructed Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore preventing him from tackling Farrell who sliced through to score.
The obstruction was noted by the TMO Marshall Kilgore but not deemed sufficient enough to have affected the play and the try was allowed to stand. Farrell converted his own try to put England up 20-13 coming in to the final quarter.
Cooper missed a long range penalty on 65 minutes which would have narrowed the margin as McKenzie went to the bench bringing on Nic White for Genia, Benn Robinson for James Slipper, Saia Fa’ingaa for Moore and Kane Douglas for Tahs teammate Sitaleki Timani.
The Wallabies launched a superb counter attack on 72 minutes from deep in their 22 with Nick Cummins taking it deep into England’s territory. It led to a penalty, which was kickable but with time running out Toomua was told to kick for touch.
Australia took the lineout just metres from England’s line and looked dangerous launching multiple phases. Folau almost stepped through but a knock on from Robinson on the 8th phase saw the move breakdown.
The Australian pack did well at the resulting scrum but Clancy found another penalty for England as the scrum walked around.
A knock on from England gave the Wallabies one last chance to attack from inside their own half but Kuridrani was held up by Farrell and Tomkins and the ball was turned over.
The match then ended fittingly with one final scrum penalty to England.
After the match a gracious Wallabies captain Mowen refused to blame the refereeing decisions though many Wallabies fans will see it differently.
The Wallabies are sure to bounce back however as they now head on to Turin in Italy where they meet the Azzurri next Saturday.
FULL TIME SCORE
England 20 (Chris Robshaw, Owen Farrell tries; Farrell 2 conversions, 2 penalties) defeated Qantas Wallabies 13 (Matt Toomua try; Quade Cooper conversion, 2 penalties) at Twickenham. (Half time: Australia 13 England 6) (Referee: George Clancy [Ireland]) (Crowd: 85,000)