LONDON, Nov 7, 2009 (AFP) - Australia completed the first leg of a possible grand slam after a strong second-half performance saw them beat England 18-9 at Twickenham here on Saturday.
Adam Ashley-Cooper's try nine minutes from time sealed the Wallabies win as they looked to match the achievement of the 1984 Australian side by beating the four 'Home Nations' of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales on the one tour.
The Wallabies had been four points down at 9-5 at half-time but scored 13 unanswered points in the second-half as they spoilt Jonny Wilkinson's return to England duty after more than 18 months out with injury.
Ashley-Cooper, whose try sealed Australia's 28-14 win in last year's corresponding fixture, shrugged off tackles from England wing Mark Cueto and replacement back Ayoola Erinle as he powered his way over in at the corner.
Fly-half Matt Giteau added the conversion to put Australia two scores in front and there was not enough time for England to comeback.
England, despite being without 12 members of their senior squad through injury, were by far the more cohesive side in the early stages with their pack providing a solid platform for Wilkinson to kick them into Wallaby territory.
Indiscipline had been England's Achilles heel against Australia last year but on Saturday it was the Wallabies who conceded all the early penalties.
Good work by the forwards, with No 8 Jordan Crane to the fore, took England deep into the Australian 22 in the third minute and when the ball was laid back to Wilkinson, whose drop-goal saw England beat Australia in the 2003 World Cup final, he out his side in front with a well-struck drop.
More pressure saw Wilkinson double England's lead with a 25 metre penalty.
And only the left post prevented Wilkinson extending England's lead when a penalty from half-way came back off the woodwork.
But it was a measure of the quality of Australia, who'd lost six of their seven previous Tests, that their first meaningful attack yielded the game's first try.
After the ball was worked across field, Ashley-Cooper was held up short of the line on the left wing. But impressive scrum-half Will Genia caught England napping on the blindside to score his first Test try.
However, Giteau - who kicked Australia to victory in last year's Cook Cup clash - missed the conversion and England were still 6-5 up.
Wilkinson, kicking astutely in open play, then saw his high punt across field palmed back by giant England wing Matt Banahan.
England pressed forward and, although no try was forthcoming, an Australia infringement in front of the posts gave Wilkinson a simple chance to put England 9-5 ahead which he duly accepted.
Defence has always been an equally key part of Wilkinson's game and his superb tackle on Giteau shortly before half-time when Australia were threatening helped preserve England's four-point lead at the break.
Australia should have had a try early in the second-half but a superb tackle by Banahan on Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom, when the flanker was yards from the line, prevented him crossing the line.
But England had infringed and Giteau's penalty cut England's lead to a point at 9-8.
Australia were gaining ground but superb defence from recalled openside flanker Lewis Moody kept the Wallabies, advancing through new inside centre Quade Cooper, at bay.
Wycliff Palu knocked-on in front of the line but Australia's increasing pressure was rewarded when Giteau kicked a 59th minute penalty as England struggled to get out of their own 22.
Australia face Ireland a week on Sunday while England's November programme continues against Argentina at Twickenham next weekend.