England beat Australia 44-40 in final Test to complete series whitewash
England completed a series whitewash in Australia with victory in a pulsating third and final Test in Sydney.
The Wallabies led by a point at half-time courtesy of the boot of Bernard Foley, after Dan Cole and Mike Brown had crossed for England, and Foley and Dane Haylett-Petty for the hosts.
Michael Hooper and Israel Folau tries cancelled out a Billy Vunipola score.
But Owen Farrell’s boot kept England in touch and Jamie George’s try helped them to a record score and a 3-0 win.
It was England’s biggest ever points total against the Wallabies, and earned them the first 3-0 series win by a touring side in Australia since South Africa in 1971.
Turning defence into attack
After their defensive heroics in the 23-7 second Test win last weekend the tourists were keen to show more of their attacking game in Sydney, and they duly delivered as what could have been a flat dead rubber turned in an epic encounter as both sides looked to move the ball at will.
It was not a day for the defence coaches as the sides shared nine tries between them, and in the end the difference probably came down to the narrow ascendancy of the English pack.
Shorn of the tackling machine James Haskell through injury, coach Eddie Jones turned to Teimana Harrison in his only change.
But the flanker was withdrawn after only half an hour, with Courtney Lawes coming into the second row, Maro Itoje moving to blind-side flanker and Chris Robshaw shifting to open-side.
And, with a steady supply of replacements reinforcing the visitors’ eight, England finally killed the game off with five minutes remaining – the giant Taqele Naiyaravoro’s try doing no more than applying late gloss to the scoreboard for the wounded Wallabies.
The game was tit for tat from the opening stages, with England prop Cole finishing off from short range a move started by front row colleague Mako Vunipola’s barrelling run, before Australia hit back as the loping Folau beat Jack Nowell down the left wing and linked with Matt Toomua to send Foley cruising over.
Haylett-Petty soon strode over out wide on the right for the hosts but England went back in front as Brown raced on to Anthony Watson’s classy chip.
With Farrell landing his kicks the visitors looked set to lead at the break, but a late Foley penalty made it 18-17 at half-time.
England finally pull away
If the first half had been exciting, the second half was dizzying.
Billy Vunipola rampaged over from a five-metre scrum to put the visitors back into the lead, but Australia looked dangerous every time they managed to wrest the ball from England’s grasp, and flanker Hooper stretched over before the Leicester-bound Toomua burst through in midfield and gave 6ft 5in Wallaby full-back Folau a run to the line.
Australia suddenly led by four points with 20 minutes to go, but replacement hooker George dotted down for England’s fourth try to put them back in front, and Farrell’s accurate kicking ensured the tourists finally pulled away.
His 79th-minute penalty gave them a decisive nine-point lead and although Naiyaravoro had the final word, the Wallabies had already had to accept they had been whitewashed for the first time by England.
What they said
England captain Dylan Hartley: “We have scored 44 points and not played the perfect game yet, so there is still a lot to work on. We can all be proud of what we have achieved down under. We are very happy with the tour.”
Australia captain Stephen Moore: “To England’s credit they deserve it. They’ve played well. They deserve to win the series.”
England: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw, Teimana Harrison, Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Jamie George, Matt Mullan, Paul Hill, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Danny Care, Elliot Daly
Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, Adam Coleman, Wycliff Palu, Nick Frisby, Christian Lealiifano, Taqele Naiyaravoro
Source: BBC Sport (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/36627112)