LONDON — England benefited from three close-run TMO decisions before scoring three tries in the final eight minutes to beat Australia by a record 30-6, sealing a fifth straight win over its big rugby rival following an action-packed test at Twickenham on Saturday.
Much to the clear disgust of Australia coach Michael Cheika up in the stands, the Wallabies had tries disallowed by the video referee either side of England winger Elliot Daly being awarded a try by the TMO in a game-changing passage of play in the 54th minute.
Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May and Danny Care then scored opportunistic late tries to give the score a flattering look and ensure Australia’s seven-match unbeaten run ended.
“We stayed in the game through a fair bit of adversity,” said Cheika, who even found himself involved in a verbal spat with spectators before halftime. “Then when the moments came to really get back in the game and put some pressure on England, we made some mistakes and released that pressure.”
The English got back on track after an underwhelming 21-8 win over Argentina last weekend but they needed some help from Irish video referee Simon McDowell.
Australia captain Michael Hooper was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up to his 27th-minute try midway through the first half — Cheika sarcastically laughed out loud and applauded when the decision was reached — and a 70th-minute try by winger Marika Koroibete was ruled out when the TMO spotted obstruction by Stephen Moore just before the grounding.
They were both marginal calls, as was the decision to allow Daly’s try after a madcap 20-second spell of action.
Australia center Samu Kerevi burst through England’s defense in a 40-meter break and passed to fellow midfielder Tevita Kuridrani for what should have been a free run to the line. Instead, Kuridrani dropped the ball and England scrumhalf Ben Youngs spun away to launch a counterattack from inside his own 22.
Youngs punted forward and the ball looked like bouncing into touch but just stayed in play, allowing Daly to kick it further ahead — in front of the diving Kurtley Beale — and the winger sprinted clear to gather over the try-line.
The try needed the say-so of the TMO and, after a long review, it was given.
Once again, Cheika was a picture of anger and frustration in the stands.
“I’m just not sure about the process,” Cheika said, “about how many replays for one incident and how many replays for another.”
Eddie Jones, England’s Australia-born coach, naturally accepted the calls.
“Why do we have a referee? Why do we have TMOs? I don’t understand the question. How were we lucky?” he said. “They do 10 replays of a video and make a decision. This was the best referee in the world for today. We had the best guys in the TMO and we’re saying we’re lucky because the decisions went our way. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m sorry we’re lucky.”
Hooper and Beale were also sin-binned toward the end of the first half — the Wallabies played about four minutes with 13 men — but they conceded only three points in the 16 minutes they were short.
Back to their full complement, the Wallabies made it 6-3 through Reece Hodge’s 49th-minute penalty and looked more dangerous before Daly’s pivotal score.
Bernard Foley booted a penalty for 13-6 and Australia was camped inside England’s half for 10 minutes, with Koroibete and Kerevi punching holes with explosive breaks.
The TMO decision over Koroibete’s try took an age, firstly looking at whether the winger grounded the ball — it looked like he did at the second attempt, despite the best effort by Chris Robshaw to hold him up — and then Moore’s intervention in blocking Robshaw seconds earlier.
It looked a harsh call, and England took full advantage.
Since losing to Australia in the pool stage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, England has beaten the Wallabies twice in autumn tests and achieved a historic 3-0 whitewash Down Under in June 2016.
Now this, the biggest margin of victory for England in 49 games and 108 years of a rugby rivalry.
“It was an arm-wrestle,” Jones said. “It was going to and fro and you had to take your opportunities. We took our opportunities better than them.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80