Steve McNamara’s men had made an encouraging opening to the game, and led 10-0 after 25 minutes.
But the Kangaroos hit back with 22 points in as many minutes either side of half time to gain a control of the game that they never relinquished.
All the pre-match talk surrounded the walk-out of McNamara from his final press conference before the match yesterday, when he refused to discuss the absence of James Graham.
A smart kick to the corner from Sam Tomkins got England field position, and after neglecting to take to kickable penalties, they scored the game’s first try. The ball was shifted left, and as the Australian defence ran out of numbers, Ryan Hall was found to score in the corner for 4-0.
Brett Ferres, who went straight in to the starting team having only joined the squad in place of Gareth Hock earlier in the week, then came close, and once again, Sinfield decided not to take a kick at goal.
The video referee denied Burgess a try on his full international debut, he was deemed to have lost control of the ball when aiming to put it down on the whitewash under the attention of four defenders.
You felt England needed more than the four points they’d mustered in this spell of pressure, and they managed to extend their lead ahead of the 20 minute mark.
Tomkins probed the defence, and then Sinfield’s reverse kick caught out a hesitant defence, and Leroy Cudjoe was able to catch the ball with his back to the line and make it over for a try.
That gave England a 10-0 lead that their play had probably deserved.
But it wasn’t long before the Australians flexed their muscles. Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston set out to seize control of the match, and from a high kick by Cronk, Greg Inglis climbed highest above Tomkins to pass inside Thurston for a Kangaroos response.
The decisive minutes came shortly before half-time. First, Thurston’s flat ball close to the line saw the tireless Greg Bird crash over. And then, with less than a minute left of the half, Australia forced a scrum on their own 40 metre line.
It didn’t get any better for the tournament co-hosts at the start of the second, as Australia punished a mistake by Josh Charnley, who stepped in to touch when trying to prevent a 40-20 attempt from Cameron Smith.
Shortly after a try-saving tackle from Tomkins, Thurston all but killed the game off with a penalty, and Darius Boyd made sure 10 minutes from time with a try in the corner.
England: Tomkins, Charnley, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall, Chase, Sinfield, Hill, Roby, G Burgess, Ferres, Westwood, S Burgess. Interchanges: Widdop, Ablett, T Burgess, Mossop.
Australia: Slater, B Morris, Tate, Inglis, Boyd, Thurston, Cronk, Scott, Smith, Tamou, Bird, Thaiday, Gallen. Interchanges: Farah, Fifita, Lewis, Parker,
Referee: Henry Perenara
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Photo courtesy of www.swpixrlwc2013.com