Tries from Bath Rugby’s Jonathan Joseph, Harlequins’ Marland Yarde and Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell saw England seal a 39-28 victory over Australia in a seven-try thriller at Suncorp Stadium.
Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell also kicked 24 points to hand Head Coach Eddie Jones’ side a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Although the Wallabies went over four times, Michael Hooper grabbing a brace to complement further scores from Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani, a mightily abrasive, industrious effort saw England over the line.
Wasps flanker James Haskell and Saracens forward Maro Itoje enjoyed superbly physical outings up front and though the hosts clawed them back to 32-28 with two minutes remaining, Nowell latched on to George Ford’s deft cross-kick for a last-gasp score.
In a match that saw multiple momentum swings, the Wallabies exploded out of the blocks. They pressurised their opponents straightaway, stretching them on either flank thanks to some slick handling and rapid recycling.
After almost catching Bernard Foley’s opening kick-off, Western Force wing Dan Haylett-Petty was prominent on his Test debut as the hosts found their feet.
England were initially indebted to some typically robust defence in midfield from Haskell – who upended David Pocock in spectacular fashion – and two vital turnovers, Itoje and Chris Robshaw derailing attacks at the breakdown.
But the dam eventually fell away. With ten minutes gone, Israel Folau arced around Mako Vunipola to get in behind England.
Following some fine support play, the effervescent Hooper latched on to a composed pass from Samu Kerevi, another international rookie, and went over.
Foley failed to add the conversion but his delicate delayed pass fed Folau five minutes later and the Waratahs full back sliced clear to register a 19th try for Australia.
This second score handed England a 10-0 deficit but also provided a cue for them to stir into life. Joseph’s blindside break sounded a warning before some muscular continuity, the carrying of Billy Vunipola to the fore, forced Michael Cheika’s side on to the backfoot.
A pair of Owen Farrell penalties punished Australian ruck offences and England’s constant attrition began to take its toll, both Rob Horne and Rob Simmons forced from the field of play.
Then, close to the half-hour mark, came a significant turning point. Foley ghosted through the line and rounded Mike Brown to slid in. However, referee Romain Poite sought the advice of his television match official and deemed Luther Burrell to have been obstructed by Rory Arnold.
George Ford replaced Burrell and England coerced another ruck penalty from Australia, Farrell on target to make it 10-9. The Saracens man, shifted to inside centre, was then the architect of England’s first try.
Folau stepped in at scrum half and threw a floated, inaccurate pass to Foley, who failed to gather with Farrell leading rapid line-speed. Kerevi could not control the loose ball and Joseph dotted down unopposed, handing England – who had to make do with just 45 per cent of possession in the first period – a 16-10 advantage.
Neither team was able to exert scrum dominance, with Poite whistling both front rows as Farrell and Foley traded successful shots from the tee. This meant half-time came with 19-13 England up.
In the second period it was England that made the faster start, Robshaw and Haskell both justifying their selection within minutes of the restart. The former demonstrated insatiable industry in pursuit of another Farrell penalty attempt, forcing the Wallabies to rush their clearance into touch.
From the resultant lineout, Haskell sprinted into open space. England recycled and Ford found Yarde with a sumptuous pass. Farrell’s conversion made it 26-13. And an enthralling encounter was only getting started.
Dan Cole’s scrummaging brought consecutive penalties and a yellow card for opposite number Scott Sio, England’s lineout maul then allowing Farrell to land his fifth three-pointer.
On the back of a robust Kerevi run and more midfield mastery from Folau, Hooper skated down the right touchline to peg England back at 29-18.
Despite another Farrell penalty and Haskell’s continued intensity, Kuridrani burrowed across the whitewash and Foley struck a penalty. Two minutes remained and England held a 32-28 advantage.
The Wallabies gathered the next restart and launched into their phase-play but replacement Danny Care took advantage of a spill out wide to snipe over the Australia 22. The ball found its way to Ford in midfield, who chipped into space beautifully.
Nowell, on for Yarde, gathered, registering a ninth international score. Farrell’s touchline conversion sailed through the uprights and England will head to Melbourne in hope of killing off this much-anticipated series.
Australia 28 England 39
Tries: Hooper 2, Folau, Kuridrani
Penalty: Foley 2
Tries: Joseph, Yarde, Nowell
Conversions: Farrell 3
Penalties: Farrell 6
Australia: Folau; Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Kerevi, Horne; Foley, Phipps; Sio, Moore, Holmes, Arnold, Simmons, Fardy, Hooper, Pocock.
Replacements: LealiIfano for Horne (29), Frisby for Phipps (78), Slipper for Sio (66), Polota-Nau for Moore (57), Kepu for Holmes (58), Mumm for Arnold (48), Horwill for Simmons (25), McMahon for Fardy (68).
Sin Bin: Sio (54).
England: Brown; Watson, Joseph, Burrell, Yarde; Farrell, Youngs; M Vunipola, Hartley, Cole, Itoje, Kruis, Robshaw, Haskell, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Nowell for Watson (70), Ford for Burrell (29), Care for Youngs (72), Mullan for M Vunipola (66), Cowan-Dickie for Hartley (72), Hill for Cole (65), Lawes for Kruis (60), Launchbury for B Vunipola (73).
Ref: Romain Poite (France)