ENGLAND came agonisingly close to a glorious victory Down Under but were thwarted by an unimpressive Australian side in their second match of the Four Nations.
Michael Jennings had given the Aussies the lead but tries from Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall gave the visitors a 12-4 half-time lead.
England saw a lot less of the ball after the break though and Ben Hunt and Greg Inglis both crossed to put the home side ahead.
But there was late drama when replays seemingly showed Hall to have touched down a neat kick from Wigan’s Liam Farrell with his finger with a minute to go.
However, after numerous replays, the video referee wasn’t convinced and Australia regained possession to see out the game.
Six Wigan players made McNamara’s starting 13 with Dan Sarginson making his debut alongside teammates Josh Charnley, Matty Smith, Liam Farrell, Joel Tomkins and skipper Sean O’Loughlin who returned from injury.
It took 16 first half minutes for the Australians to open the scoring.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Greg Bird started a great move that was finished off by Jennings who was a little too casual as he grounded the ball forcing the referee to go to the screen. Fortunately for the centre, he just about managed to put downward pressure on it before losing control.
After this, England rallied and totally dominated the rest of the half.
They deservedly got on the scoresheet after 28 minutes when Sam Tomkins played in Watkins with Gareth Widdop’s conversion giving them a 6-4 lead.
And it was former Wigan full-back Tomkins who helped create England’s second try when he bravely challenged with man-mountain Inglis to win possession.
The ball was played out wide and a fantastic pass from Warriors centre Sarginson saw Hall go over. Widdop superbly added the extras and England went in at half-time with a deserved lead.
The Aussies came out with more determination though and thought they were back in the contest when Inglis went over after 47 minutes. However, he was denied when the video referee spotted an obstruction on Smith in the build up.
And as their dominance increased, Australia soon found themselves in front with two tries in six minutes.
After Inglis was held up just metres from the line, Cameron Smith played a sneaky grubber through for debutant Hunt to score.
As England were still licking their wounds, their defence crumbled and Daly Cherry-Evans weaved his way though before playing in Inglis to score.
England did get going again and just as it looked like it would be too little too late, there was a moment of controversy with the game still on a knife edge.
Wigan forward Farrell played through a smart grubber for Hall to chase and in normal speed it looked like Inglis had batted the ball dead.
However, the referee wanted clarification and replays showed the Leeds winger grounding it with a finger before it went out of play.
After a few agonising minutes though, the official decided he wasn’t convinced enough to award a try and Australia hung on to ensure qualification for the Four Nations final goes down to the last week with New Zealand and England also still in contention.
Australia: G Inglis (South Sydney), J Mansour (Penrith), M Jennings (Sydney Roosters), D Walker (South Sydney), S Mata’utia (Newcastle), D Cherry-Evans (Manly), C Cronk (Melbourne), A Woods (Wests Tigers), C Smith (Melbourne, capt), S Thaiday (Brisbane), B Scott (Newcastle), G Bird (Gold Coast), C Parker (Brisbane).
Replacements: B Cordner (Sydney Roosters), B Hunt (Brisbane), D Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs), J Papalii (Canberra).
England: S Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors), J Charnley (Wigan), K Watkins (Leeds), D Sarginson (Wigan), R Hall (Leeds), G Widdop (St George Illawarra), M Smith (Wigan), G Burgess (South Sydney), J Hodgson (Hull KR), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, capt), L Farrell (Wigan), J Tomkins (Wigan), S O’Loughlin (Wigan).
Replacements: D Clark (Castleford), B Ferres (Huddersfield), T Burgess (South Sydney), C Hill (Warrington).