Harlequins flyer Joe Marchant scored the try that turned the game on its head and helped send England into a World Rugby Under 20 Championship semi-final against South Africa.
England were caught cold by Australia at the AJ Bell Stadium and trailed seven points at half-time, only for Marchant to race onto Northampton Saint Harry Mallinder’s kick shortly after the resumption.
And in a thoroughly professional second half, England did not concede a point while Mallinder added a further six points with his boot.
Australia, in a start that echoed the first Test between the two senior sides last weekend, were off the mark within 30 seconds as Jack Maddocks took a Mack Mason pass and surged over, with the latter’s conversion successful.
England nevertheless edged the territorial battle in the first quarter after Saints centre Mallinder, playing at fly-half for the Under-20s, knocked over a penalty following Maddocks’ gut punch.
Then came two tit-for-tat penalties – Mason punishing England for going off their feet, and Mallinder striking after Australia conceded a scrum penalty – but the Wallabies would have the last say before the break.
Mason made it three out of three from the tee in the 38th minute as the result of a deliberate knock-on but England could take heart from their general control.
And the breakthrough came through the deft touch of Mallinder shortly after the break, as Harlequins centre Marchant flew onto his grubber and touched down.
Mallinder’s miscue from the tee meant there was still two points in it, and the 20-year-old then took on a penalty from halfway but did not quite have the direction.
He rectified things after Gloucester Rugby scrum-half Harry Randall forced another penalty following a tap-and-go, putting England in the lead for the first time at 14-13 with 15 minutes to go.
Randall’s dart up the touchline nearly led to a chance that would have surely put the game to bed but most importantly the majority of possession remained in their hands.
More England pressure resulted in another Mallinder penalty that would ease the pressure and ultimately wrap up the battling win.