South Africa defeats England 15-6 for World Cup title
Oct 21, 2007, 0:19 GMT
South African rugby fans celebrate on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, 20 October 2007. South Africa won the IRB Rugby World Cup final between South Africa and England in Paris, France, by 15-6. EPA/JON HRUSA
Paris - South Africa won the 2007 Rugby World Cup by beating holders England 15-6 in a hard-fought title match, played Saturday at the Stade de France outside Paris.
The tournament's leading scorer, Percy Montgomery, converted all four of his penalty kicks and young Francois Steyn kicked another to account for all of the points for the Springboks, who became only the second team, after England in 2003, to win the title without scoring a try.
In winning their second World Cup championship, the Springboks put a halt to a surprising run by England, which began five weeks ago after they were crushed 36-0 by South Africa in a pool match.
The rematch between the two sides was the first title match in World Cup history between two teams that had already played each other in the pool competition.
As expected from two teams with big, physical forwards, the game was brutal in the ruck and breakdown, with both sides forcing turnovers and putting intense pressure on the ball-carriers and kickers.
South Africa won because they kicked better, were superior in the line-outs and made fewer mistakes than the English did.
The match began as a test of strength, with England holding a small edge in territorial occupation. The first break came in the 6th minute, when outside centre Mathew Tait fielded a kick within his 22 metre line and slipped as he turned upfield.
He was immediately covered by three Springbok defenders and penalized for not releasing the ball. Montgomery converted his 14th penalty kick of 15 attempts in the tournament, and South Africa led 3-0.
England quickly equalized after a South African turnover, when the hero of the 2003 World Cup, Jonny Wilkinson, converted a tough penalty kick from 40 metres at 13 minutes.
Just three minutes later, Montgomery gave the Boks the lead for good with his second penalty kick, after flanker Lewis Moody was judged guilty of tripping.
At 17 minutes, Wilkinson missed a drop kick. Steyn, a certain future star for South Africa, missed a penalty conversion from 50 metres five minutes later, and the match turned into a ferocious struggle for territory as both sides resorted to clearance and position kicking.
In the 35th minute, Steyn ran brilliantly to spark an offensive move that brought South Africa to within centimetres of the England try line. But the English defence held and the Boks lost the ball on a knock-on.
Moody was penalized again just before half-time for coming into the ruck from the side. Montgomery's conversion gave him 102 points for the tournament, the ninth player to surpass 100 points in a World Cup, and sent the Boks into the dressing room with a 9-3 lead.
The second half began ominously for the English as their captain, Phil Vickery, was replaced at prop by Matt Stevens after an injury. England soon also lost fullback Jason Robinson and centre Mike Catt, who had kicked well, to injury.
The English came agonizingly close to a try in the 43rd minute, when Tait broke through the South African defence for a brilliant 60-metre run, to be stopped just short of the line.
On the ensuing play, wing Mark Cueto appeared to have touched down, but the video replay showed that the Springbok number 8 Danie Rossouw had pushed him over the touch line before the ball touched the ground.
A jubilant South Africa head coach, Jake White, praised his team's defence.
'That's what winning world cups is about,' he said. 'They (England) were very unlucky not to get that try. We showed attitude on that line.'
But South Africa was penalized on the play, and Wilkinson converted to reduce the score to 9-6.
Montgomery kicked his fourth penalty in the 51st minute, after flanker Martin Corry was sanctioned for not releasing the ball, to restore the South African 6-point lead.
Desperately needing a try, England went on the offensive, looking for openings in the Springbok defence. But wing Paul Sackey was penalized for an illegal screen at 62 minutes, and Steyn converted from 48 metres for the final score.
England spent the final 15 minutes of the match relentlessly battering away at the South Africans, but they were pushed back by a tenacious, opportunistic defence and forced into handling mistakes.
Montgomery and flyhalf Butch James kicked brilliantly, as they had done all match long, to give their side breathing space.
The victory was sweet revenge for South Africa technical adviser Eddie Jones, who was coach of the Australia team that England defeated in the title match of the 2003 World Cup.
'It's absolutely fantastic,' he said. 'It has been an honour to work with this team and we'll be having a few beers tonight.'
Montgomery, the most consistent player of the tournament, was delighted.
'It's unbelievable. We've been building and building and working towards winning and, geez, we've won the World Cup.'
England coach Brian Ashton was gracious in defeat.
'Of course we are disappointed with the defeat tonight,' he said. 'I'm really, really disappointed for the players, not myself. They, South Africa, deserved it. They were the better team.'
The winners were the only team to go through the tournament undefeated, and had the leading scorer in Montgomery, who finished the World Cup with 105 points, and the top try-maker in wing Bryan Habana, with eight.
The one consolation for the losers was that, with his two penalty conversions, Wilkinson extended his career World Cup scoring record to 249.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur