England coach Eddie Jones admitted his side let their opponents off the hook as they went down 30-28 to Australia in Perth.
The Red Rose were leading 11-6 at one stage thanks to Ellis Genge’s try, and had a man advantage after Darcey Swain was sent off, but failed to take advantage of their strong position.
Jones’ men were pegged back by second-half tries from Jordan Petaia, Folau Fainga’a, and Pete Semu to lose the first test, despite a late comeback through debut tries for youngsters Henry Arundell and Jack van Poortvliet.
“We had opportunities to put pressure on them and we just let them off at different stages,” said Jones.
“A couple of times we were on their line for opportunities to score and didn’t.
“We just were not tight enough on some areas of our game, we just let them out on certain occasions.
“We were ahead 14-9 with 20 minutes to go – those sort of things can come back to bite you and they did – they had 10 good minutes of rugby where they scored a couple of good tries, we missed one or two tackles and we let them back into the game.
“We had enough moments in the game to win it. At 14-9 with 20 minutes to go, we should have put it away.”
A tight first-half saw both sides trade two penalties a piece, with the major flashpoint Swain’s red card.
And Jones believed his side struggled to adapt to the man advantage.
“In some ways, the red card can work against you,” he added.
“Sometimes the referee wants to compensate. We didn’t adjust as well as we should have.
“The message at half-time was to keep putting pressure on them and we did that in spurts.
“We lost the ball twice on their try-line and we didn’t do that, whereas Australia did. We need to work on our finishing and a bit on our defence as well.
“We will work hard to turn it around. We will be better next week. It’s painful, but we’re committed to win the series 2-1.”
There were some positives for England, despite another defeat on top of their third-place finish in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations, with youngsters Arundell and Van Poortvliet going over late on.
Full back Arundell shrugged off multiple tackles to go over in the corner with a minute to go, before Van Poortvliet jinked over from close range with the clock in the red and defeat already sealed for England.
It was Van Poortvliet’s first senior cap after an impressive season at scrum-half for Premership champions Leicester Tigers, but he admitted there were mixed emotions after the game.