Wallabies win 30-28 in Perth despite being down to 14 players for more than 40 minutes
Darcy Swain sent off – but Australia beat England
Last year Australia survived 75 minutes with 14 men to beat France 33-30 and they produced something similar in the opening Test against England.
Darcy Swain was sent off after 34 minutes in Perth for a headbutt on Jonny Hill and midway through the second half Australia were trailing 14-9 after England had dominated the third quarter.
Yet the Wallabies showed tremendous character, given the red card and several injuries that had disrupted their plans, to score three tries in 15 minutes to take the match away from England.
The visitors got two late tries – both from debutants – but it is Australia who lead the series 1-0 having won against the odds and ended a run of eight successive defeats by England.
Back to the red card. The two locks started to scuffle at a maul in the England 22, with Hill pulling Swain’s hair – an act for which he was yellow-carded.
As the pair broke apart, Swain then moved towards Hill with his head and the butt was caught by the TMO, with referee James Doleman red-carding the Wallaby second-row.
The incident happened when the Wallabies were about to be awarded an offside penalty, which would have given them an opportunity to level the scores, but instead they were reduced to 14 players for the rest of the match.
The Wallabies had already been hit by several setbacks. First fly-half Quade Cooper picked up an injury during the warm-up, meaning Noah Lolesio was promoted to the No 10 jersey and James O’Connor was rushed from the hospitality boxes at Optus Stadium to the bench.
Then Tom Banks suffered a suspected broken arm in the 22nd minute as he tried to cushion his fall after jumping for a high ball.
A few minutes later Allan Alaalatoa was going off after hurting himself in a tackle. So injuries had caused disruption even before the red card.
Still, they were led 9-6 within two minutes of the restart after Lolesio slotted penalties either side of the break.
Then momentum swung England’s way. The first try of the came in the 49th minute, after England opted to kick for the corner from a couple of penalties. From the second they got their maul moving and Ellis Genge, with a little support from Lewis Ludlam, splintered off to power over in the corner.
A third Owen Farrell penalty extended England’s lead to 14-9 but then the Wallabies hit back with a well-worked Jordan Petaia try, which was converted by Lolesio.
Then for ten of the last 12 minutes it was 14 v 14 as Billy Vunipola was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Michael Hooper.
Within a couple of minutes, Australia had their second try when Folau Fainga’a scored from a short-range lineout and Lolesio added the conversion.
England put on pressure of their own close to the Australian line but the hosts won a turnover penalty just metres out, then scored a try at the other end when Pete Samu stepped between a couple of defenders.
That made it 30-14 going into the last two minutes. The match was won but it was not over.
Henry Arundell, winning his first Test cap, received the ball on the wing, burst through two defenders and escaped the clutches of another couple to score in the corner.
Then, with the clock in the red and Australia down to 13 after Lolesio was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, another debutant Jack van Poortlviet added more respectability to the score when he darted between two defenders from five metres out.
The Wallabies were more convincing winners than the two-point margin suggests, but it may give England confidence going into the second Test next week. It should be an intriguing series.
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