England win Rugby World Cup

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England win Rugby World Cup

The 22nd of November 2003 AD

In one of the great games of world Rugby the England team led by inspirational captain Martin Johnson finally won the Webb Ellis trophy they so nearly grabbed playing the same opponents at Twickenham in 1991. On that day in front of 75,000 people the score was 12 – 6. The finger tips of Aussie winger David Campese were the difference between winning and losing, the outspoken player just managing to get a hand to what would have been a try scoring pass for England in the later stages of the game.

The 2003 tournament was played in Australia (New Zealand having been dropped as co-hosts after a contractual dispute with the organisers), and the final was played before almost 83,000 fans in the Telstra Stadium in Sydney on November 22 2003.

The Aussies scored a try in the sixth minute, Lote Tuqiri catching a cross-field kick, towering above the challenge of the diminutive Jason Robinson on the wing. England kept their belief and discipline, the unflappable Jonny Wilkinson scoring three penalties, then in the 38th minute the giant Dallaglio was suddenly breaking into space, shifting the ball on to Wilkinson who timed his pass perfectly to give Robinson room to make the corner in a high-speed sliding dive.

In the second half it was the Australians who kept their belief, notching another two penalties through Elton Flatley’s boot to take the score to 14-11. England were on the back-foot in the last minute, but had a scrum put in. They had dominated the scrum all day, and only needed to win it and hoof the ball to touch to end as victors, but after several failed settings of the scrum referee André Watson gave a penalty that Flatley scored with the last kick of normal time.

Some English fans may have said mildly impolite things about the penalty, but the England team marshalled as ever by the awesome presence that was Martin Johnson in an England shirt came out fighting in extra time. In the first nineteen minutes each scored a further penalty, and sudden death loomed. In what was likely to be the last attack before sudden death England advanced upfield, Dawson wrestled the ball from a ruck and hit Wilkinson with a bullet-pass. The left-footed Wilkinson side-stepped the entire rugby world by kicking a drop goal with his right foot to take a precious 20 -17 lead with just 21 seconds remaining.

The Aussies had equalised in the last minute of normal time, and again with two minutes to go of extra time. Could they break English hearts again? England secured the kick-off, and the little remembered but perhaps most important kick of the day was made by Mike Catt, sending the ball soaring off the pitch as extra-time expired. Watson blew for full-time and England were world champions.

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