13 November 2010
When Australia visited Twickenham in 2000 they were coming to the Home of England Rugby as reigning world champions, with a team featuring some of the greatest players in Wallaby history: John Eales, Chris Latham, Matt Burke, Stirling Mortlock, Joe Roff, George Smith and Toutai Kefu. Luckily for England, star halfback partners George Gregan and Stephen Larkham were unavailable for this game, but this Wallabies team was still packed with quality. There were players that would genuinely go down in history as truly great Wallabies.
England, however, were a team in transition, bitterly disappointed with their world cup defeat to South Africa in 1999, and with a number of young players looking to build their game around an exceptionally strong forward pack, to give the likes of a young Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall the platform to run the ball.
The game was exceptionally hard fought. World-class goal kickers Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Burke traded penalties, the latter being Australia’s best player on the day scoring all their points, including a devastating try just after half-time.
With 80 minutes on the clock, England were losing 15-19 but, crucially, they had the ball. In a show of utter defiance, England managed to recycle the ball for nearly 8 minutes of extra time and battered their way into Australian territory, securing the ball with their bruising forwards before releasing the backs. Substitute Iain Balshaw, just inside the Wallaby 22 metre line, put a deft but extremely risky chip over the Wallaby defence into the left corner of the in-goal area. Flying winger Dan Luger raced past the Australian defenders to dot the ball down for a try in the corner. Twickenham erupted but this was not the end of drama. This match was the first in which television match officials were used and Luger’s try was referred to the video ref. This only added to the fans’ frenzy as the footage was reviewed. When Andre Watson was told he could award the try the decision gave England a dramatic, thrilling victory in the 88th minute of play. This 2010 vintage was truly one of the greatest games ever staged at Twickenham.