Australia has surrendered a home series to England for the first time ever, defeated 23-7 at AAMI Park on Saturday night and conceding the Cook Cup.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika predicted a hard, physical scrap at AAMI Park and that’s exactly what Saturday night delivered.
Far from the frenetic opening quarter of the opening Test in Brisbane, this week brought brutality, with seven penalties in the opening 20 minutes and a scoreless same period, with just three tries scored all game in Australia's lowest score on home soil against England and lowest altogether since 1976.
The Wallabies were left to rue missed opportunities once again, against a mammoth defensive performance from England that wore the home side down, with the visitors making 215 tackles to 81 in the game in an effort that had more than an air of Australia’s 2015 Rugby World Cup performance against Wales about it.
Discipline still proved a concern early in the piece and the Wallabies had an early let off, with England inside centre Owen Farrell missing a straightforward but long range shot at goal, the only chance he missed on his way to an 18-point performance.
It only took eight minutes for a scrum to test the AAMI Park surface and it disintegrated at the first sign of pressure, after a damp day in Melbourne.
There was plenty of fire in the match early, culminating in a controversial decision against captain Stephen Moore, who bashed his way into a ruck after scrumhalf Nick Phipps was caught in a headlock by England flanker Chris Robshaw.
Robshaw turned in a man of the match performance, a far cry from his World Cup to forget, as the England
England drew first blood in the 19th minute, with a try to Dylan Hartley off a rolling maul, making the opening quarter far more painful for Australia, before Farrell extended the lead to 10 in the 30th minute.
Australia converted five minutes of attacking pressure into a reply in the 34th minute, with Stephen Moore matching his opposite hooker’s points tally.
A Billy Vunipola brain snap, in which he passed the ball into touch before the half-time siren went, gave Australia a chance to press for the try line but 22 phases ended in a knock-on.
Bernard Foley found himself in the middle of a number of pivotal moments of the second stanza, few more significant than a penalty call that went against him in the 52nd minute, where he appeared to be shouldered out of the way by Farrell but was penalised for obstruction.
A knock-on less than 10 metres from Australia’s try line was a more black and white lowlight for Foley, but the playmaker’s back end was indicative of a rollercoaster night for his team.
Farrell sealed the result with a 75th minute converted try that put England two scores ahead, twisting the knife into a night of lost chances for the Wallabies, before booting the most last-gasp of penalties to stretch the lead to 16.
The series now heads to Sydney, with the Wallabies having just pride to salvage.
(Tries: Moore Cons: Foley)
(Tries: Hartley, Farrell Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 3)