Courtney Lawes & Co beat the Wallabies 21-17 in Sydney 

Breakaway Marcus Smith try helps England to series win

A sprinkling of magic and a heavy dollop of hard graft saw England beat Australia 21-17 at the Sydney Cricket Ground to seal a series win Down Under.

It wasn’t as convincing as the 3-0 whitewash in 2016 but there was plenty of grit from Eddie Jones’s team to hold off a fightback from the Wallabies in the final quarter to take the series 2-1.

A Marcus Smith try provided the magic. The fly-half picked off a loose ball after a messy Wallabies lineout and burst clear to score under the posts.

As for the hard graft, England captain Courtney Lawes epitomised that, not only with his tackling but his turnovers. Just as in the second Test, the blindside made several telling interventions in the closing minutes, whether clamping onto the ball or counter-rucking powerfully.

Michael Hooper was equally as effective for the Wallabies – his hounding of Danny Care in the first half no doubt played a part in the scrum-half being replaced by Jack van Poortvliet in the 37th minute – but his team couldn’t overhaul England in the closing stages.

In the opening half-hour, it was the Wallabies who dominated, exposing England in defence and creating space in the wide channels. That led to a 24th-minute try for Tom Wright, who was put away after a neat one-two with Nic White.

Yet a Freddie Steward try gave England an 11-10 lead at the break as the tourists pressurised the Wallaby line in the closing minutes of the half.

It all started from a five-metre lineout, with Lewis Ludlam, Tommy Freeman and Lawes all getting close to the line until van Poortvliet passed to Steward on the blindside and the full-back stepped inside Wright to score.

That try, coupled with his ability under the high ball and some important tackles, meant Steward was named Player of the Match.

England were leading 21-10 at the hour mark thanks to Smith’s try and the boot of Owen Farrell, but the Wallabies came back strongly.

They spent a long time camped in the England 22 and Folau Fainga’a eventually powered over from close range, with Noah Lolesio’s conversion narrowing the gap to four points.

The hosts enjoyed plenty more possession and territory in the final 14 minutes but couldn’t get another crucial score, England’s defence standing firm and Lawes stepping up at important moments.

“It was a pretty tough start to the series and this match, but we showed what we’re made of,” said Lawes after lifting the Ella-Mobbs Trophy.

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