England 2nd after scalping Aussies

MELBOURNE • It has taken a while but England are finally celebrating their first major series win in the Southern Hemisphere.

A hard-fought 23-7 victory over Australia in Melbourne yesterday has given them an unassailable 2-0 lead with one Test still to play.

The win will also ensure the English rise to second in the World Rugby rankings, with only world champions New Zealand ahead of them.

No previous June tour by England has ever yielded a series victory over Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, ensuring a unique place in Red Rose history for Eddie Jones' side.

It took a heroically defensive effort to deliver it, sealed by a 74th-minute try from Owen Farrell.

The Wallabies enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in terms of territory and possession but only rarely pierced the English defensive screen.

The game will also be remembered for the sub-standard quality of the pitch, which cut up badly from an early stage.

England, though, were not going to allow anything to distract them from their overriding objective.

A 12th-minute bust-up involving several players from both sides reflected the intensity of the contest and the level of commitment on both sides was colossal throughout.

It made for a feisty, rugged game in which both packs saw plenty of action.

"We didn't have much possession so we had to defend a lot. Our defence was outstanding," Jones said following England's eighth straight victory.

"We're looking forward to winning the series 3-0."

England led 10-7 at half-time, but had to defend for long periods in the second half as the Wallabies probed for the breakthrough try.

But it never came, due to a combination of the Wallabies' sloppy handling and England's unyielding defence protecting their try-line.

The Wallabies scored four tries in last week's defeat in Brisbane, but could only muster one this time through skipper Stephen Moore in the first half.

"We dropped a lot of balls. We ran a lot, maybe we played too much in the wrong areas. We have to learn to play a lot of footy, and win the game too," Australia coach Michael Cheika said.

"England played very smart. They've played in the right areas and spoilt a lot of good balls in the ruck. Well done to them."

Earlier yesterday, New Zealand produced a ruthless second-half display to defeat Wales 36-22 in the second Test in Wellington and maintain one of world rugby's longest winning streaks.

The world champions ran in five tries to three to claim the three-Test series with a match to spare and clinch their 28th straight win over Wales, a run dating back to 1953.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'England 2nd after scalping Aussies'. Print Edition | Subscribe