England blaze a trail to light up Twickenham
Anything you're supposed to do, we can do better.
That might have been England's mantra on one of the great Twickenham days, a scintillating Test match to illuminate this autumn series.
Weren't the Wallabies the ones supposed to play with this devil-may-care attacking approach, with this fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants bravura?
England might have been showcasing their new 'away' strip of anthracite - a smokeless fuel - but they were lighting fires all over their home turf.
Beaming, bewildered supporters were streaming out of headquarters afterwards openly wondering whether they had just witnessed the best performance by the red rose brigade since, well, ever.
They were also scratching their heads trying to remember a better try than Chris Ashton's second, after a 90m move that started in the shadow of the England posts.
Philippe Saint-Andre's classic for France at Twickenham in 1991 might have topped it, but not by much. Anyone out there like to make a claim for a better England one?
It was like the good old days of the early noughties, when England went 22 games unbeaten at the old "Fortress", and victories over the southern hemisphere's big three were commonplace.
Except the England side Martin Johnson led never won a match in quite this grand a manner. "We didn't play well in the World Cup final, that's for sure," he quipped after this stunning display, refusing to go overboard despite the result.
This was a first home win by England over one of the Tri-Nations giants since 2006, and lifts England up to fourth in the world rankings.
The 17 point-winning margin equalled their best against Australia, matching the 20-3 win of 1973 and 23-6 in 1976. England's 35 points was another best in the fixture, as was the immaculate Toby Flood's personal haul of 25 points, including nine out of nine kicks at goal.
As a statement of intent about the way this emerging side want to play, it was quite breathtaking, in conception and execution.
Tom Croft's bold pre-match claim that England's quality was a match for the Wallabies in all areas of the game proved startingly prescient.
Nick Easter later introduced the idea of "total rugby" - they were that good - but was at pains to point out England were still a way off such a feat.
If they were to win, most observers agreed, the likely route to victory would be via forward domination founded on a superior scrum, and dogged defence.
But those predictions were gloriously turned on their head as England ran the ball from everywhere, particularly in wide channels, spotting and exploiting space to the full.
The much talked-about scrum contest barely registered. There were only six scrums in the whole game, three in each half. England won two penalties and two free-kicks, Australia a penalty and a free-kick.
Two moments in the first half underlined the new, faster, bolder, dynamic England.
Ashton's opening try was a beauty. A throw to Lewis Moody at the tail of the line-out, a quick tap down, Shontayne Hape bursting through on the crash ball, Ben Youngs and Toby Flood moving the ball quickly away from the ruck, Mike Tindall's offload inside to Mark Cueto, a pop-up pass to Tom Croft, another offload to Ashton.
The deadliest finisher in the English game wriggled his way over to his evident delight. Twickenham rocked.
The penalty that put England 16-3 clear as half-time approached also owed much to the change of personnel and mindset.
The ever-alert Youngs, sizing up the situation in an instant, took a quick tap penalty 30m from his own line. Seconds later he was on the shoulder of Flood 50m further up the field, taking a pass and chipping ahead to the line.
He then scragged the back-pedalling James O'Connor, England turned the ball over and Matt Giteau was sent to the sin-bin after illegally denying a likely try.
England supporters were in state of euphoric, delirious shock.
As if to embrace this insurrection going on in front of them, they ignored repeated requests from the stadium announcer calling for decorum, having aired their frustration at the length of time O'Connor took to line up his kicks at goal by jeering and whistling the young winger mercilessly.
It seemed to have an effect, for the precocious 20-year-old missed with his first two efforts from distance and saw his third bounce back off the left upright, costing Australia nine valuable points in the first half-hour.
By the time Flood was lining up the clinching penalty with three minutes left, there was little chance or need for restraint. "Swing Low, Swing Chariot" was in full swing.
There were heroes to salute everywhere, from props Andrew Sheridan and Dan Cole, who, denied much fun in the scrum, were bundles of energy in the loose and at rucks. The second row pairing were similarly prominent, Courtney Lawes playing with the confidence and élan of a Test natural, Tom Palmer putting in several crunching tackles, including a decisive one on Will Genia to force the turnover which led to Ashton's second try.
The back row of Moody, Tom Croft and Easter revelled in the freedom, having largely negated the dangerous David Pocock and Rocky Elsom at the breakdown.
Chris Ashton and team-mates enjoy a champagne moment at Twickenham. Photo: Reuters
On only his third Test start, scrum-half Ben Youngs demonstrated exactly why he has already been lauded as a potential sensation of the age.
Whatever else he does in what should be a long and productive international career, he will already be remembered for launching one of the great England tries, seeing the space on his own line, stepping his man and releasing Lawes, who drew his own man superbly before unleashing the master predator Ashton on his 80m burst to glory.
It was a surprise to see Youngs brought off after 54 minutes, but his derring-do in that time had already secured him the man-of-the-match award.
It turned out he was throwing up blood and suffering spasms in his chests, believing he had damaged a rib, but was pretty perky in his post-match interviews.
Johnson was clearly intent on preventing the hyperbole going into overdrive afterwards, even if inside he must have been bursting with pride.
His overall assessment? "A really good reward for all the work the guys have put in. It was a good performance, wasn't it?" Ashton's second try? "Pretty special." Flood's display? "Delighted but not surprised. He runs the team very well and gives a lot of guys confidence. Mind you, I was screaming at him to drop a goal late on."
And Youngs? "He is just a really mature guy. He played very, very well. The good thing is he is only 21, he can get better. The minute you start patting yourself on the back in rugby..."
Johnson didn't really finish that sentence, but the message was clear.
One Wallaby thrashing doesn't make an autumn, and England - who face Samoa and South Africa over the next fortnight - must perform to a consistently high standard before they can be considered legitimate contenders for next year's World Cup.
Johnson did single out the "outstanding" Mark Cueto though, and no wonder.
The 30-year-old Sale wing, playing his 43rd Test, was a revelation, and must have pushed Youngs close for the man-of-the-match award.
His place, along with centres Mike Tindall and Hape, was felt to be under threat.
Questions were asked beforehand whether he could handle the pace and firepower the Aussies would be sending in his direction. How he answered them.
His first significant contribution was what we have come to expect - a purposeful chase of a Youngs box-kick, a thunderous tackle on O'Connor.
But after popping up with an offload to Croft in the build-up to Ashton's first try, his game entered a new dimension in the second half, and like many of his team-mates, he seemed spurred on to greater things in the euphoria of Ashton's second try.
After 56 minutes, all alone in his own half and with three Wallabies bearing down on him, a kick seemed the logical option. Not a bit of it.
Cueto promptly stepped off his left foot and weaved in and out and away from all three of them. It was as if Shane Williams had put on a couple of stone, grown a few inches and materialised on the England left wing.
Five minutes later Cueto jinked his way to within a metre of the Aussie line before being hauled down, and then bamboozled several more Wallabies with a piroutte routine that almost sent Ashton over for a hat-trick try.
England were almost cavalier at times in the second half, swept along in the glory of it all.
Croft went on his own with men outside him and got turned over, and before he knew it Kurtley Beale was chipping over Ben Foden and winning the race to the line.
Flood did kick a relieving penalty but when Australia worked Beale over for his second try in the right corner to make it 29-18 with 15 minutes left, after England had lost their own throw at a line-out, the first slight pangs of anxiety set in.
But England composed themselves, the immense Lawes won the next line-out, and Flood kicked two more penalties to clinch a sensational victory.
Tindall, on the day he equalled Jeremy Guscott's record of 65 caps for an England centre, had hobbled off to a hero's reception, having matched the tallies of Jonny Wilkinson and Phil Vickery with his seventh win over the Wallabies.
"It's always easier when you get bagged all week," he said. "You just go out there and play and prove people wrong. As a team we have a number of different avenues to go down and we want to challenge people. We back ourselves as a backline."
Back themselves they certainly did, and a few punters might be tempted to do likewise as their World Cup odds come tumbling down on the back of this win.
As Charlie Hodgson hoofed the ball into the crowd to signal the end of an exhilirating afternoon's entertainment, Twickenham responded with a deserved standing ovation.
Australia coach Robbie Deans claimed afterwards he was "not surprised at all" by the manner of England's performance.
Outside the inner sanctum of the hosts' dressing room, he might have been the only one.