Saturday, November 22, 2003

England have won the Rugby World Cup!

We stuffed the Aussies!Australia 17-20 England
England won the Rugby World Cup with a breathtaking Jonny Wilkinson drop goal just 26 seconds from the end of a thrilling final in Sydney.

Millions watched around the world as captain Martin Johnson became the first player to lead a northern hemisphere side to the world title.

Wilkinson's last-gasp effort was all that separated the sides after 100 minutes of rugby and a dramatic extra-time finale.

Australia battled hard and were never out of the game but ultimately fell just short, despite opening the scoring through wing Lote Tuqiri.

The match represented the culmination of four impressive years of improvement from an England team that flattered to deceive in the last World Cup.

Then, Johnson and his cohorts were kicked out by South Africa and were rightly criticised for lacking a 'killer spirit'.

There were no such weaknesses on display on Saturday as England wrestled the cup away from an Aussie side who fought tooth and nail to become the first team to retain the trophy.

The Wallabies started strongly when Tuqiri out-jumped Jason Robinson to a huge Stephen Larkham bomb with just six minutes on the clock.

Robbo scores a try!The score was no more than Australia deserved but three Wilkinson penalties soon silenced the strong home support.

Despite the rain continuing to fall, both sides chose to keep the ball in hand and as the game progressed, so the mighty England pack began to dominate.

With just 10 minutes of the first half left, Ben Kay knocked on with the line beckoning to the frustration of the visiting fans.

Minutes later, England finally silenced their critics when Robinson scuttled over wide on the left after a powerful midfield burst from Lawrence Dallaglio.

The men in white started the second half as they had finished the first.

Johnson led from the front with a towering performance and Dallaglio and flanker Richard Hill caused numerous problems down the middle of the pitch.

But just as England looked likely to pull away, two sloppy penalties allowed Elton Flatley to bring his side back within touching distance.

Wilko hoofs it!England looked the more confident side with the ball in hand - but only just.

Will Greenwood knocked on inside the Aussie 22 and Wilkinson then missed a drop goal as the match entered a tense closing quarter.

Runs from the powerful Stirling Mortlock and George Smith pushed England back into their own half.

And as referee Andre Watson prepared to blow for full time, Flatley slotted his third kick of the half to push the match into extra time.

The players looked understandably exhausted and when Wilkinson and Flatley again swapped penalties the match looked as if it was heading into sudden death.

But England were not to be denied and it was fitting that Wilkinson sealed a deserved victory as well as the most memorable result in English rugby history.

Key Moments
::6 mins: Tuqiri's try puts Australia ahead
::38 mins: Robinson scores a try after three Wilkinson penalties to put England 14-5 ahead
::80 mins: The hosts haul themselves level with Flatley's last-gasp penalty
::82 mins: Wilkinson's penalty gives England an extra-time advantage
::97 mins: Flatley strikes again to equalise at 17-17
::100 mins: Wilkinson's drop goal wins England the World Cup

::Australia: M Rogers, W Sailor, S Mortlock, E Flatley, L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan (capt); B Young, B Cannon, A Baxter; J Harrison, N Sharpe; G Smith, P Waugh, D Lyons.
::Replacements: J Paul, M Dunning, D Giffin, M Cockbain, C Whitaker, M Giteau, J Roff.

::England: J Lewsey, J Robinson, W Greenwood, M Tindall, B Cohen; J Wilkinson, M Dawson; T Woodman, S Thompson, P Vickery; M Johnson; (capt), B Kay; R Hill, N Back, L Dallaglio.
::Replacements: D West, J Leonard, M Corry, L Moody, K Bracken, M Catt, I Balshaw.

[from BBCi]

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