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Australia crush England to take Cook Cup back

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Australia crushed England 43-18 here Saturday to complete a 2-0 Cook Cup whitewash and extend the tourists’ losing streak to five Tests, their worst in 22 years.


On a night that Australia celebrated George Gregan reaching a world-record 120 Test caps, there was nothing but misery for England, who were outplayed even more comprehensively than in the 34-3 loss the Wallabies inflicted in the series opener last Sunday.


Australia ran in six tries to England’s two, giving new coach John Connolly his second win in charge as the Wallabies rebuild for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.


England suffered a blow before the game started when a calf injury forced experienced flanker Lewis Moody out of the starting line-up and he was replaced by Australian-raised Michael Lipman, receiving only his third cap.


But England came at the Australians aggressively in the opening stages, drawing first blood when flyhalf Andy Goode potted a field goal after four minutes.


Australia struck back with a try immediately when a charging George Smith swooped on Stephen Larkham’s pinpoint pass to cross the line.


Stand-in captain Sterling Mortlock converted to put the host nation up 7-3.


Winger Mark Gerrard added another try on 15 minutes when he beat England’s Matthew Tait to a high ball on the visitors’ line as Australia began to take control of the match.


Goode narrowed the deficit with a penalty conversion in the 26th minute but England’s attacking forays repeatedly broke down as the error rate climbed, in a repeat of the side’s performance in Sydney.


Sloppy marking allowed man-of-the-match halfback Chris Latham to break the English line and pass to winger Lote Tuqiri, whose converted try on the 37th minute sent the Australians into the break up 19-6.


The second half brought no relief for England as a rampant Wallabies’ backline were poised to cross the line again on the 44th minute, with only a try-saving tackle on Mortlock by centre Jamie Noon keeping them at bay.


There was no reprieve two minutes later though when lock Mark Chisholm barged through to pile on the misery for England.


Hooker George Chuter raised England’s hopes when he picked up a neat Peter Richards offload and sprinted 30 metres for a try but a Mortlock penalty conversion kept the Wallabies comfortably ahead.


Gregan’s introduction in the 56th minute brought a rousing reception from the 41,000 crowd and earned him his 120th cap, breaking the record set by England prop Jason Leonard.


After starting from the bench for the first time in a decade, Gregan was instrumental in Australia’s next try in the 67th minute, when his pass released Gerrard, who then crossed the line after a quick one-two with Latham.


English frustrations soon boiled over into a melee near the Australian line, during which England captain Pat Sanderson pulled Tuqiri’s hair, provoking a furious response from the Australian speedster.


He exacted revenge in the 77th minute, feeing the ball to Larkham who offloaded to reserve Cameron Shepherd for a converted try.


England winger Tom Varndell’s last-minute coverted try gave only slim consolation to a side for whom it appeared the final siren could not come quickly enough.

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