England took its winning run over fierce rugby rival Australia to eight games in a 32-15 victory, a late breakaway try reflecting the home team’s dominance and the Wallabies’ error-strewn performance at Twickenham.
England could muster only one try – a seventh minute effort by fullback Freddie Steward off a pop pass by flyhalf Marcus Smith – before Jamie Blamire trundled over in second half stoppage time after the 12th and final handling error by the Australians.
They managed to stay in touch despite playing two 10 minute periods with 14 men, following sin-binnings for winger Tom Wright and prop Angus Bell either side of halftime.
Coming off a 15-13 loss in Scotland, Australia conceded 18 penalties – double that of England – and more than double the number of handling errors, but the English struggled to take advantage.
“We were ill-disciplined,” Australia captain Michael Hooper said.
“We had a low amount of percentage, low territory – England controlled the game well there – and off our ill-discipline they’d go back into our zone and take points there.
“We hung in there with two yellow cards, we fought really hard. We were in the game right to the death of it, but the score is not going to flatter us.”
Ultimately, England kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalty kicks, with Owen Farrell booting five of them to go with his early conversion before hobbling off near the end with an apparent left leg injury.
Smith, winning his fourth cap at flyhalf, kicked a 73rd minute penalty to put England 10 points clear and virtually ensure no way back for Australia.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Farrell, who played down his injury, calling it a “bang.”
“Playing against Australia is always a big game. We take what we did today but we know we can be better than that.”
Flyhalf James O’Connor kicked all of Australia’s points off penalties, with the Wallabies rarely getting close to the tryline.
They conclude their end-of-year tour of Europe against Wales next weekend and will be sweating on the fitness of Hooper, who also came off near the end.
England has won all of its meetings with Australia since a devastating loss in the pool stage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup that knocked the team out of the tournament on home soil.
Eddie Jones, an Australian, has been at the helm for all of them though this was the first over current Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
Smith was playing the biggest match of his short international career and he showed glimpses of his talent, especially in the way he took Farrell’s pass and delayed his own pass to Steward before sending the fullback through a gap in the Australian defence.
Steward did the rest, skirting round the flailing Kurtley Beale and grounding near the post.
That put England in the lead for the first time after O’Connor’s third minute penalty, and Farrell and O’Connor traded penalties for the rest of the half.
Wright was issued a yellow card in the 30th for a high tackle on Jamie George after the hooker rampaged through off Courtney Lawes’ pass.
But the Australians weathered the next 10 minutes, with O’Connor’s penalty on the stroke of halftime meaning they came out of that period tied at 3-3.
The only points England scored after Bell was sinbinned, in the 48th for lifting Lawes beyond the horizontal in a tackle, was the resulting penalty from Farrell.
Australia’s scrum held up well despite playing without a recognised tighthead following head injuries to Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou against Scotland.
But it did cave in to allow Farrell to kick his fifth penalty of the game, for 22-15 in the 65th.
Blamire came on at halftime because of an injury to George and botched his first two lineout throws.
He finished the game in style, though, after fellow replacement Sam Simmonds latched onto a loose pass from an Australian break.
Simmonds released Blamire, who barreled over in a fourth straight Test.
England, which started the autumn series thrashing Tonga 69-3, finishes it against South Africa next weekend.
“We want to go into the Six Nations with a South African scalp,” Jones said.