Tom Wood and Kieran Brookes suffered gut-wrenching disappointment as England became the first hosts to bow out of a Rugby World Cup at the pool stages.
Stuart Lancaster’s men were steamrollered 33-13 by a streetwise Australia side at Twickenham, ending hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy on home turf.
Two first half tries from Bernard Foley gave England a mountain to climb and their fate was sealed in the second period as the fly-half added four penalties and Matt Giteau scored late on.
Anthony Watson did finish England’s best move of the match and the deficit was reduced to seven points with 15 minutes remaining.
But Owen Farrell, who had landed all three of his kicks, registering eight points, was sin-binned for a no arms tackle and Foley notched two more penalties before adding the extras to Giteau’s try to put the icing on the Australia cake.
England had gone into the game knowing the hopes of a nation rested on their shoulders, but they were without the injured Courtney Lawes, who is nursing a knee problem.
Australia stated their intentions from the off with a huge hit from Michael Hooper leaving Farrell grounded.
And England were to get a reprieve soon after as Israel Folau took too long to get his pass away and ran into Mike Brown, with the man over going to waste.
The Australias did end the venture into England territory with a penalty, though, and Foley put three points on the board.
But Lancaster’s men responded, winning a penalty at the scrum to give Farrell the chance to level the scores, which he did.
Australia were looking the most dangerous side with ball in hand, dazzling with some tidy offloads before Foley slipped past Brown to score.
The fly-half added the extras and he was soon registering another seven points, picking up a Kurtley Beale pass to score and then kicking the conversion.
While Australia’s attacking game was razor sharp, England’s was as blunt as a loaf of bread, and, with just five minutes to go before the break, they had a huge task on their hands.
And the mountain they needed to climb got even steeper when Foley added another three points to the Aussie tally eight minutes into the second half.
England were being suffocated by breakdown experts Hooper and David Pocock, but a change of personnel brought a freshness.
And after their best move of the match, Watson finished superbly in the corner to breath new life into the England bid.
Farrell landed the tricky touchline conversion and Twickenham dared to dream again.
And when he bisected the posts with another penalty with 15 minutes to go, the gap was down to just seven points.
However, Farrell was forced to sit out the final 10 minutes for a no arms tackle and Foley made the penalty to push his team’s lead up to 10 points.
Everything the Wallabies No.10 touched turned to points and he added another penalty soon after as England were punished at the scrum.
And with England lying on the canvas, a boot was applied to the face, as Giteau finished off a move and Foley landed the conversion to round off a nightmare night for the hosts.
England: Brown; Watson, Joseph, Barritt (Burgess 64), May (Ford 40); Farrell, B Youngs (Wigglesworth 51); Marler (M Vunipola 51), T Youngs (Webber 61), Cole (Brookes 54); Launchbury (Kruis 68), Parling; Wood, Robshaw (c), Morgan (Easter 59).
Australia: Folau (Toomua 65); Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Giteau (McCalman 61), Horne (Beale 10); Foley, Genia; Sio (Slipper 58), Moore (c) (Polota-Nau 65), Kepu; Douglas, Simmons; Fardy, Hooper, Pocock.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)