Moody left with the blues as England search for lost chord

Painful lesson for the blond flyer on his long road back
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The Independent Online

They've done it again, the buggers. Just when it seemed an Englishman might be safe in his castle, a year on from depositing the World Cup in the Twickenham trophy cabinet, the men in gold returned to remind us that not all that glisters in world rugby is wearing white.

They've done it again, the buggers. Just when it seemed an Englishman might be safe in his castle, a year on from depositing the World Cup in the Twickenham trophy cabinet, the men in gold returned to remind us that not all that glisters in world rugby is wearing white.

Australia celebrated their win with gusto, going off to HQ's north-west corner where most of their supporters were massed. This made England hang around near the tunnel until the niceties of the presentation of the Cook Cup could be completed, and, alone among the vanquished, Lewis Moody could not bring himself to watch as George Gregan lifted the pot. The Leicester flanker, by common consent an essential component of the new England, turned his back on proceedings, uninterested in gazing upon Gregan's smiling face. A favourite Aussie expression would have suited Moody's mood nicely: "Show me a good loser - and I'll show you a loser."

Among the most intriguing questions in this early phase of development of Andy Robinson's team is whether Moody, Martin Corry and Joe Worsley will take on the back-row mantle of the estimable Neil Back, Lawrence Dallaglio and Richard Hill (the latter is, in theory, still available but unlikely to be seen again this season due to injury). For all the conjecture, the only worthy proof is on the field, and the abiding image of Moody taking an age to rise from his haunches at the final whistle was not a pleasing one to English eyes.

Corry's surges off the scrum, so effective against the South Africans a week earlier, were much in evidence again, but there was a worrying lack of precision as soon as the No 8 met a Wallaby tackler or two. Neither did Worsley show up anything like as well as he would have wished, and the overall impression was of plenty of possession with nowhere near enough penetration.

Yet it would be difficult to imagine how much more Moody could have done from the open side to turn the tide England's way. Detailed to lead the way to every breakdown after the first phase, he was never found wanting. The pitch-side photographers would have been chucking reams of film of his backside, hunched over rucks scrabbling at Australia's ball, into the wastebin last night. When a line-out drive was called for to get England back into the match early in the second half - or was it simply into the match? - Moody was there with the try. He kick-started England's World Cup procession last year with the charge-down of Louis Koen for Will Greenwood's try against the Springboks. He fielded the line-out throw in the final which led to that dropped goal. This time around, the galvanising effect of Moody's score was not the same, but it came mightily close as England turned a 15-0 deficit into the makings of a 19-15 lead.

"The second half was impressive," Moody said, "I was happy with the way we came back and we never gave up. Obviously we should have closed the game out but it is a Test match, and things don't always go your way. If we continue to work on the basics, the future is bright." But his stone-faced expression belied the optimism, and there is much to do before the Six Nations' Championship.

The most annoying thing about the Australians is not their success in sport, which mostly rewards unarguable virtues of talent and application. It's not the weather - mad dogs and Englishmen, and all that, and anyway a trip to the beach is no picnic what with slip, slap, slop and so on. The most infuriating aspect of the Aussies is, by an outback mile, their enduring ability to make rugby look so easy. The English have historically preferred a Meryl Streep to a Tracey Emin, feeling more comfortable with method than madness. Something to do with the protestant work ethic, probably. Now that being "comfortable in chaos" is the buzz phrase, Moody, an unreconstructed Aussie-style natural, should be in his element.

Unlike his back-row colleagues yesterday, he was getting picked ahead of Back and Dallaglio when everyone was fit for the corresponding autumn Tests two years ago. Then two serious injuries intervened - one a busted shoulder, the other a broken foot from which he returned a mere five weeks ago. Such is his value, he is having to play his way back into form in tough matches for Leicester and on the international stage.

Ask Moody to analyse what he does, and you can put the notebook away, and save the ink. But he will absorb a few lessons from Australia's use of twin open sides, George Smith and Phil Waugh. Moody has obviously worked on his weakness - the concession of penalties - though his first transgression, in the 68th minute, gave Matt Giteau three crucial points.

This day at Twickenham was more mean - as in average - than magnificent. But you can rely on Moody, a mad dog and an Englishman, to come back for more.

'We should have closed the game. It's a lesson'

There's never been much between these two teams and Australia came up trumps today. We didn't have enough at the end.

England captain Jason Robinson

I think we should have closed the game at 19-15 and it is a big lesson for us to learn.

England coach Andy Robinson

We played the way we wanted to play. We moved the ball around really well.

Australia coach Eddie Jones

That is one of the best games I've been involved in. It's been a tough tour and we just dug in. This is a quality English team and to win in the backyard of the world champions... it feels unbelievable.

Australia full-back Chris Latham

We should have won but we committed too many errors and missed too many tackles. But we've lost by two points to Australia, and it shows we have come a long way.

England wing Josh Lewsey

Charlie [Hodgson] kicked them last week and missed them this week but it's easy to blame the kicker and we've got to look at our performance as a whole, at the penalties that we've given away.

Andy Robinson

We were 12-0 down at half-time and left ourselves with a mountain to climb. We had a game plan but we just didn't stick to it.

Jason Robinson

The simple things that we normally do so well just didn't click. The second half was impressive and I'm happy with the way we came back.

England flanker Lewis Moody