England stun Australia to reach World Cup semi-final
Oct 6, 2007, 18:15 GMT
Marseille, France - England put in a superb performance to shock Australia 12-10 and book their place in semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup Saturday.
The defending champions, who also beat Australia to lift the title four years ago, completely overwhelmed their opponents up front with all 12 of their points at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille coming from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.
The 12 points took Wilkenson's World Cup tally to 234, making him the all-time top scorer of the competition. With England still playing two matches at this tournament, Wilkenson has scored seven points more than Scotland's Gavin Hastings.
Wilkenson said that things turned around for the side after they lost to South Africa. 'I think the England side, since the South Africa match, have been very honest with each other. Not everyone was on the same wavelength. We came out of that and have played better now. We want to build on that.
'I think there's an improvement in terms of feeling good about the team. The match was tough for a long time and it took a lot of strength to get through. It wasn't a case of we can hold out, it was a case of we can build on what we've got.
'We will celebrate the victory, but we also celebrate the opportunity to play another game.'
Lote Tuqiri scored the only try of the game for Australia while Stirling Mortlock missed the opportunity to win the game for the Wallabies when he sent a late penalty kick wide.
'It was a very tight physical battle and I missed a few kicks which were costly,' admitted Mortlock. 'England just didn't allow us to find any continuity.'
England now take on either New Zealand or hosts France, who meet later Saturday in Cardiff, for a place in the final.
Mortlock missed his first kick of the match from a tight angle but managed to put the Wallabies 3-0 in front with his second effort on six minutes after Nick Easter was penalised for playing the ball off his feet.
Mortlock missed another kick at goal before Wilkinson levelled the scores on 23 minutes after the Wallabies were caught offside.
With England dominating up front, another penalty followed three minutes later when Australia collapsed the scrum and Wilkinson slotted home the easy kick to make it 6-3.
Wilkinson missed the chance to extend England's lead with another penalty but Australia slowly found their feet and deservedly went in front on 33 minutes when Tuqiri crossed over for the first try of the game. Mortlock converted to make it 10-6.
The Wallabies conceded another penalty four minutes later for infringing at the breakdown but Wilkinson skewed his penalty kick wide to leave England trailing by four points at the break.
England missed a glorious chance to score their first try on 46 minutes but Mike Catt knocked on. However, another Wilkinson penalty after Australia strayed offside reduced the deficit to just one point.
Chris Latham slipped a long-range drop-goal attempt just wide for the Wallabies before England's forward power once again led to a penalty, which Wilkinson duly converted to put England back in front.
Australia tried in vain to break down a resolute England defence and Mortlock's late missed penalty meant they were kept scoreless for the second half.
The victory was the fourth time that England won a World Cup match without scoring a try and the second time that this feat has been achieved at this tournament. Scotland managed to beat Italy without scoring a try in their pool game.
'I am a very, very proud Englishman today. Big games call for big performances,' said Phil Vickery.
'It's a great day for us.'
Australian coach John Connolly admitted that his side did not play well. 'It was our worst performance (of the tournament). England's scrum got it in stride. England controlled the breakdown strongly.'
Connolly, who said before the tournament that he would not be taking the team to the next World Cup, said that he looked back at his stint as national coach with pride, even if it ended with a disappointment.
'I'm obviously disappointed. Rugby has been a wonderful career for me over the past 20 years, I suppose, at the top level. I started out in the amateur years. It's been a wonderful ride. I'm very fortunate to have made a living out of it over the last 10 years. It's been a phenomenal time. There's been far more highlights than lowlights.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur