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England let slip an early 10-0 lead as they were beaten 28-20 by Australia in the Rugby League World Cup opener at the Millennium Stadium.
Tries from Ryan Hall and Leroy Cudjoe, with captain Kevin Sinfield adding one conversion, put the tournament co-hosts in pole position after the first quarter.
However, the Kangaroos came fighting back before the break, scoring three converted tries, including one right before the half-time hooter from Billy Slater, to open up an 18-10 advantage.
Brett Morris opened up the gap further with a 45-minute try before Darius Boyd touched down with 10 minutes to go, putting Australia out of sight.
Josh Charnley did give England a late glimmer of hope when he scooped up a loose ball for an easy run-in, but Steve McNamara's side fell bravely short and, if the groups go to form, look set to face New Zealand in the semi-finals.
After a turbulent build-up that included a warm-up defeat to Italy and the axing of Gareth Hock following a breach of team discipline, at least the England coach will be glad to be talk about the performance of his players on the pitch.
They looked capable of repeating their triumph over the same opponents in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup after a frantic opening 20 minutes.
Winger Hall accepted Sam Tomkins' cut-out pass to break the deadlock after six minutes before Sinfield's clever kick off the outside of his boot set up centre Cudjoe to grab the ball in front of centre Brent Tate to score.
Sinfield's goal made it 10-0 and it could have been an even bigger lead, with George Burgess barging past three defenders to reach the line only for video referee Ben Thaler to ruled he had lost control of the ball.
Yet that early surge began to fizzle out once replacements were made, allowing Australia to hit them with four tries in a devastating 18-minute spell.
Greg Inglis soared above full-back Tomkins to claim a high ball and set up a simple score for Johnathan Thurston, while the scorer turned provider for Greg Bird for the Kangaroos' second.
The turning point came in the last minute of the half when Tomkins was released by the impressive Sam Burgess only to be brought back for a forward pass. From the resulting scrum, Slater illustrated his danger in broken play by dummying his way past Sam Burgess and sprinting 60 metres for a try.
Australia tightened their grip on the contest three minutes into the second half when Morris took a pass from fellow winger Darius Boyd to score his 13th try in as many matches for his country.
England pulled a try back on 50 minutes when George Burgess took James Roby's pass close to line to romp over, with Sinfield's second goal cutting the deficit to just six points.
A Thurston penalty made it a two-score gap and the Australians finally clinched the victory when Boyd took Slater's pass to score his side's fifth try.
Although Charnley did have the last word, it was no more than a consolation effort for England. While they can take heart in defeat, the result has left them facing a tougher road through to the final at Old Trafford.
|Rugby League World Cup|
|Saturday 30th November|
|New Zealand 2 - 26 Australia|
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