They were smashed on the injury front and in the referee’s bad books but the Wallabies scored a famous and courageous 30-28 win at Optus Stadium on Saturday night
It was a remarkable victory, Australia playing 45 minutes with just 14 players, as England tried to bully them into submission.
Australia breathed a sigh of relief after finally breaking the Eddie Jones hoodoo and ending an eight-game losing streak.
In a drama-filled match Australia second-rower Darcy Swain was sent-off for a head butt in a scuffle with England’s Jonny Hill.
But they had already been hit by a series of massive blows.
First, playmaker Quade Cooper suffered a calf injury in the warm-up.
Noah Lolesio took his place and as Cooper walked dejectedly from the field James O’Connor was rushed from a corporate speaking engagement onto the bench.
They had been banking on Cooper’s experience, vision and skill to dismantle England’s structure.
Then they were hit further when full-back Tom Banks was taken off on the medicab with an horrific-looking arm injury after falling badly trying to collect a high ball.
It brought Jordan Petaia onto the field.
Things went from bad to worse when prop Alan Alaalatoa failed a head injury assessment.
And the game looked set to boil over after a bout of hair pulling and a head butt leaving Hill with a yellow card and Swain a red from referee James Doleman.
There was more drama after the break when Billy Vunipola was handed a yellow-card for a high tackle on 65 minutes.
It was not spectacular. It was typical grinding Test match rugby. But the Wallaby fans did not care.
In a stop-start opening in front of a 47,668 crowd, both sides gave away plenty of early penalties through ill-discipline that killed momentum.
England had the Wallabies under plenty of pressure, using their battering rams through the middle before keeping ball in hand and going wide.
They threw a lot of ball behind their front runners but the Wallabies line-speed kept them at bay.
England worked their way into space, persevering with the two, first-receiver passing plan, but often the final pass stopped their movement.
Australia had firepower with experience but it failed to make much of a dent in the England line in the first period
England took first points using an early box kick, winning a penalty that Owen Farrell easily slotted.
Farrell added a second three-pointer midway through the first-half that was rubbed out by Lolesio.
Australia turned to their kicking game to get out of their own 22 metres as England poured on wave after wave of attack.
They had their first real foray into the England defensive quarter after 30 minutes and as the half drew to a close Lolesio levelled the scores with his second penalty.
His third gave the Wallabies a surprise lead after the break but when England went to their unstoppable line-out rolling maul prop Ellis Genge went over for their first try of the tour.
Weight of possession began to tell and Farrell added his third penalty but the Wallabies would not go away and Petaia smashed his way over in the corner after a great passing move. Lolesio converted.
They went further ahead when newly-signed Western Force hooker Folau Fainga’a crashed over from a maul. Lolesio converted to take the margin beyond a converted try.
And when Pete Samu barrelled his way through and Lolesio added the extras it sealed the win despite two late converted tries from Henry Arundell Jack Van Poortvliet as the Wallabies toiled with just 13 men.