A battered and bruised Australia ended an eight-match losing streak against England with a rousing 30-28 victory in the first Test in Perth on Saturday.
The shorthanded Wallabies lost fly-half Quade Cooper to injury before kickoff and played the second half with 14 players, but scored three late tries to draw first blood in the three-match series in front of a rowdy 47,668 crowd at the Optus Stadium.
It was Australia’s first victory over England since the 2015 World Cup, but the result appeared unlikely after a tumultuous start.
The Wallabies were dealt a major blow minutes before kick-off when Cooper was ruled out after injuring his left calf during the warm-up.
They also lost full back Tom Banks and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa to injuries within a brutal opening 25 minutes and were reduced to 14 players soon after.
Lock Darcy Swain received a red card in the 34th minute for headbutting Jonny Hill, who got 10 minutes in the sin-bin for his part in the fracas.
But the ravaged hosts were able to scramble to a 6-6 deadlock at half-time before consecutive tries to Jordan Petaia and Folau Fainga’a stunned England, who were unable to make their numerical advantage pay.
“We had to dig deep, had to go to the well there a bit today, come up with a lot of solutions,” Australia captain Michael Hooper said.
“Really proud of the guys and the effort they put in.”
It was the fourth defeat in a row for England, increasing the pressure on coach Eddie Jones with just over a year until the 2023 World Cup in France.
Former Australia coach Jones had been unbeaten against his old side after taking charge of England after the 2015 World Cup, including a 3-0 series whitewash six years ago.
“It’s a pretty tough loss that, but fair play to Australia,” England captain Courtney Lawes said.
“They came with a good strategy and they executed better on the day.”
Australia will try to wrap up the new Ella-Mobbs Cup in Brisbane next Saturday, with the third Test in Sydney a week later.
England took advantage of a rattled Australia early through the boot of Owen Farrell, who was overlooked for the captaincy on his return from injury.
The visitors looked set for the first try of the match when Tom Curry broke through the defence and floated a pass wide to Joe Marchant, who was spectacularly denied by a crunching tackle from Marika Koroibete.
Australia’s injury woes deepened when Banks suffered a suspected broken arm after landing awkwardly before Alaalatoa hobbled off dazed after a hit to the head.
The Wallabies hit the front for the first time after the break when Noah Lolesio converted a penalty.
But their lead was short-lived after loosehead prop Ellis Genge burrowed over in the right corner for the first try of the match.
Just when the Wallabies appeared to be wilting, they found inspiration with right wing Petaia finishing off an attritional passage of phases in the 64th minute.
Their momentum continued when Fainga’a and Pete Samu crossed to extend the lead to 30-14 before England scored consolation tries through debutant Henry Arundell and Jack van Poortlviet either side of the siren.