SYDNEY (AP) — England held on through a 12-phase Wallabies attack with four minutes remaining to beat Australia 21-17 and clinch the three-match rugby series in the decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.
England led 11-10 at halftime and 21-10 with 15 minutes remaining before a Wallabies try drew the home side close. But England held on to win the series 2-1, the second time in six years they've clinched a series Down Under after beating Australia 3-0 in 2016, also under coach Eddie Jones.
Australia won the first match 30-28 in Perth on July 2 before England leveled the series in Brisbane last weekend with a dominating 25-17 win.
The Wallabies created more opportunities Saturday but were unable to turn their chances into points due to England’s strong defensive effort before a sellout crowd of 43,274 at the SCG.
England playmaker Marcus Smith delivered a crucial blow in the 55th minute when an Australian lineout went awry and flyhalf Noah Lolesio failed to secure the loose ball. Smith scooped it up and showed his blistering pace in racing 50 meters to touch down, with Owen Farrell adding the extras for its 21-10 lead.
The Australians were able to hit back 10 minutes later when replacement hooker Folau Fainga’a burrowed over the line, closing the margin to four points.
The Wallabies lived up to their promise to get off to a fast start but despite dominating territory and possession, they found themselves trailing at halftime. Poor execution at key moments proved costly with Reece Hodge sending a ball sailing over the sideline, while prop Taniela Tupou was guilty of pushing two errant passes.
While the halftime siren sounded England hammered the try line before fullback and man-of-the-match Freddie Steward dived across to put his team ahead by a point.
Australia’s first-half try was scored by Tom Wright. Moving the ball from a lineout 60 meters out the Wallabies charged upfield with Marika Koroibete sending a long ball out to his fellow winger.
He and Nic White combined before Wright raced to the line and Lolesio added the extras for a 7-3 lead after the 26th minute, which was stretched soon after by another three points by Lolesio.
“It was a monster effort,” Steward said of England’s defense during the 12-phase attack by the Wallabies. “We probably lacked a bit of physicality at the beginning but we made up for it in the end. To come away with a series win is a great effort.”
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said his side had “no excuses, we gave ourselves a chance to win tonight."
“I don’t think we were clinical enough," Hooper added. “We created good opportunities but just weren’t good enough to finish them. There were some errors that hurt us in big moments.”
England skipper Courtney Lawes said his team “stuck at it."
“We didn’t really fire that many shots tonight but we found a way to win," Lawes said.
It was the second big series win for a Northern Hemisphere team over a southern counterpart on Saturday. A few hours earlier across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, Ireland held off a second-half rally by the All Blacks to win the deciding third test match 32-22 at Wellington.
It was Ireland’s first series win against the All Blacks. And Ireland became only the third team and the first in almost 40 years to beat the All Blacks in a three-test series at home.
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