Australia made a mockery of some grisly pre-match predictions to beat England 20-14 at Twickenham on Saturday, restoring morale and relieving the pressure on under-fire coach Robbie Deans.
Behind 14-11 at halftime, the fired-up Wallabies kept England scoreless after the break and fullback Berrick Barnes slotted over three penalties to see them home a week after slumping to a 33-6 loss in France.
Manu Tuilagi’s controversial try for a below-par England in the 39th minute cancelled out Nick Cummins’ first international score four minutes earlier, with the sides never separated by more than three points in the first half.
However, England dominated the last 30 minutes, turning down two kicks at goal in favour of attacking lineouts. They came up short, with No. 8 Thomas Waldrom failing to ground cleanly on the line as he stretched after a scrambling run.
England had finally found their form but the tourists were hanging on and nearly pulled more than a score clear only for Barnes’ long-range penalty to drop just short of the crossbar.
Another sustained drive by England ended with Wycliff Palu vitally stealing possession near his own tryline, one of many attacks repelled in a tense last 15 minutes.
Barnes finished with 15 points from the boot.
The Australians’ first victory in three matches against England crucially keeps them ahead of their old rivals in the world rankings.
Unbeaten in 19
World champions New Zealand overcame a slow start and a series of early errors to beat Italy 42-10 in the second round of autumn internationals.
Aaron Cruden kicked for 17 points, Julian Savea scored two late tries and Kieran Read, Ma’a Nonu and Cory Jane also had tries for the top-ranked All Blacks, who led 13-7 at halftime.
Alberto Sgarbi scored a first-half try for the 11th-ranked Azzurri, and Luciano Orquera added one conversion and one drop kick before an enthusiastic soldout crowd of more than 70,000 at the Stadio Olimpico.
New Zealand extended their overall unbeaten streak to 19 matches and improved to 13-0 against Italy, despite leaving standout flyhalf Dan Carter on the bench.
New Zealand next visit Wales and England.
South Africa were also winners on Saturday with a 21-10 victory at Murrayfield.
Adriaan Strauss scored two tries for South Africa with Pat Lambie kicking three penalties.
For Scotland, Henry Pyrgos scored a consulation try in the second half.