Australia 17-25 England: Owen Farrell kicks six penalties to end losing streak and tee up Sydney decider

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Owen Farrell kicked 20 points as England defeated Australia in the second Test in Brisbane on Saturday  (AP)
Owen Farrell kicked 20 points as England defeated Australia in the second Test in Brisbane on Saturday (AP)

Much-improved England held on to beat Australia in Saturday’s gruelling second Test and set up a mouthwatering winner-takes-all series decider in Sydney next weekend.

Former captain Owen Farrell kicked 20 points - including six penalties - in a hard-fought 25-17 victory that ended a dismal run of four successive defeats for Eddie Jones’ side, who got an early breakthrough courtesy of impressive No8 Billy Vunipola’s try following a well-worked lineout move.

Australia showed great determination once again despite plenty more injury strife, threatening another comeback thanks to tries from returning prop Taniela Tupou and powerful centre Samu Kerevi.

However, they could not get the job done this time around and their formidable 10-match Test winning streak at Brisbane’s imposing Suncorp Stadium is now over.

Australia had won the opening summer Test 30-28 in Perth a week ago, finally ending an eight-match losing run against Jones’ England despite having lock Darcy Swain sent off for a first-half headbutt.

England were dealt a blow before kick-off in the second Test as Jack Willis was withdrawn from the squad due to a rib injury sustained on Friday and replaced on the bench by another potential debutant in Will Joseph, having already gambled on first caps for Tommy Freeman and Guy Porter in the backline and a first start for scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, who would go on to be named man of the match. The concussed Tom Curry made way for Sam Underhill on the openside.

England dominated much of an impressive first half, getting their reward for a formidable start as a shift lineout routine involving Jamie George and Maro Itoje led to Vunipola touching down the first try of the day.

England were setting a ferocious tone in both attack and defence, with Australia struggling to deal with their suffocating intensity from the off.

Jordan Petaia earned a start at full-back for the hosts following his first-Test exploits off the bench and injuries to Tom Banks and Andrew Kellaway, but was an early casualty with a head injury as he was replaced by Izaia Perese, who would also be carted off early in the second half with a serious-looking knee problem.

Billy Vunipola celebrates scoring England’s first and only try in Brisbane (Getty Images)
Billy Vunipola celebrates scoring England’s first and only try in Brisbane (Getty Images)

Two breakdown infringements gave Farrell - who had a mixed day from the tee in Perth - a pair of straightforward shots at goal, with England leading 13-0 inside 15 minutes.

Ellis Genge was perhaps fortunate to avoid a yellow card for a forearm to the head of Australian scrum-half Nic White, but Perese was sent to the sin bin after botching an attempted one-handed interception that would not have counted anyway with England attacking with an advantage, which Farrell duly turned into three more points.

Australia could not gain a foothold despite some admirable defensive work and the deficit grew larger after the half-hour mark when Farrell again drilled a kick over after a maul transgression from Cadeyrn Neville, who would also go on to suffer a knee injury on only his second Wallabies appearance.

Genge was dominating Tupou in their highly-anticipated scrum battle, though it was England tighthead Will Stuart who was controversially penalised for dropping his bind, which gave Australia the platform for their first try of the evening.

Angus Bell made a terrific break for the line and was stopped short, but composure was not lost as Tupou eventually tucked the ball under and crashed over the line from close range.

Taniela Tupou touched down after Australia’s first visit inside the English 22 (Getty Images)
Taniela Tupou touched down after Australia’s first visit inside the English 22 (Getty Images)

It was a first score in their maiden trip into the opposition 22 for Australia, with a poor end to the half for England as Itoje was forced off after a blow to the head in a collision and Farrell could not find touch with a penalty deep downfield with the clock in the red, wasting the chance of more potential points.

Still, England went in at the interval leading 19-7 - their highest half-time advantage over Australia since 2001.

Australia lost Perese, leading to James O’Connor’s introduction, before an offside call led to Farrell pushing the lead out to 15 points, but the Wallabies remained clinical as they scored again with their second foray into the 22, Kerevi played in after some fine carrying and ball recycling created the opportunity after England had caused all sorts of issues for themselves by letting the kick-off bounce.

Suddenly momentum swung sharply as England were very much forced onto the defensive, going down to 14 men for 10 minutes when Marcus Smith was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.

Noah Lolesio’s subsequent penalty to make it a five-point game compounded those worries, with the Aussie forward pack now controlling the battle as they handed an international debut to Brumbies lock Nick Frost.

Samu Kerevi scored the Wallabies’ second try, but they couldn’t complete another comeback (Getty Images)
Samu Kerevi scored the Wallabies’ second try, but they couldn’t complete another comeback (Getty Images)

But a key England turnover led to a fantastic diagonal kick from Farrell into the arms of the livewire wing Jack Nowell, who was brought down before the line. However, they were again attacking with an advantage and Farrell was able to stretch the lead back to eight points with another successful kick from the tee.

O’Connor missed touch himself in frustrating fashion when going for the corner, with England skipper Courtney Lawes later securing a monster turnover after substitute Henry Arundell had caused problems for his team by making contact with a player in the air.

Another cross-field kick found its way to Nowell, who was bundled into touch by Marika Koroibete, though play was brought back for another penalty and a tricky attempt from Farrell that had the distance but not the accuracy veered well wide.

No matter as England expertly bled the clock and sealed a morale-boosting victory, though Itoje already being ruled out of a mammoth decider in Sydney is a tough pill for Jones to swallow.

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