x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

England recapture past glory

England rolled back the years with a display reminiscent of their 2003 World Cup winning team as the backs cut loose to dispatch Australia 35-18 yesterday.

England rolled back the years with a display reminiscent of their 2003 World Cup-winning team as their backs cut loose to dispatch Australia 35-18 yesterday.

It was England's first victory over a Tri Nations side at Twickenham for four years.

Chris Ashton touched down twice as the backs continued where they left off in last week's spirited loss against New Zealand to leave Australia's vaunted counterparts constantly guessing and equal England's biggest margin of victory over the Wallabies.

"It was reward for all the work the boys put in, that's all the squad and the staff," said Martin Johnson, the England manager. "I thought a lot of guys played very well today and a lot of them took a big step forward."

While Australia's James O'Connor struggled with the boot, England's Toby Flood kicked 25 points in a performance in which he, man-of-the-match Ben Youngs and Ben Foden constantly looked to attack.

England play Samoa next week before rounding off their November program against South Africa.

"We're capable of it, we know we are," Johnson said. "We have to do it for 80 minutes, but we did it for a lot longer than last week. We'll be back in on Monday and we'll work at getting better."

It was England's first home victory over a southern hemisphere powerhouse since a 23-21 triumph over South Africa in November 2006. It also matches 17-point wins over Australia in 1973 and '76.

"It wasn't for lack of effort but some of the execution wasn't as sharp as it has been, that's obvious," said Ricky Elsom, Australia's captain. "We were playing a very good English side and their execution was top-notch. That was the difference between the sides. Against a lesser side, it wouldn't have been an issue."

Elsewhere, Victor Matfield, the South Africa captain, hailed the "great character" shown by his side as they recovered from 17-9 down at half-time to beat Wales 29-25 at the Millennium Stadium.

The Cardiff crowd sensed a famous victory, and only Wales's second over the Springboks in 104 years, and they even extended their lead to 11 points early in the second half. But the world champions fought back with tries from Willem Alberts and Matfield. Morne Steyn added 19 points.

"I'm very proud of the boys," said Matfield, who earned his 103rd cap to become South Africa's record cap holder. "Wales put us under pressure."

Ireland had to work hard to end an six-game losing streak before overcoming Samoa 20-10 in Dublin, while Scotland were embarrassed by New Zealand at Murrayfield, losing 49-3.

* Agencies