Sunday, 14 October 2007

England Through To The 2007 Rugby World Cup Final

England 14 - France 9

There comes moments in sport where you just sit in shock, absolutely flabbergasted by the outcome. Four weeks ago when England could not even score a single point against South Africa, I did not in my wildest dreams imagine that today we would be sitting here, talking about the courageousness of Brian Ashton's men making it through these last few games. But they have - on brute strength, calm belief, experienced old heads, a passionate forward pack and a man that is one of the superheros of the modern era in rugby.

France and England were evenly matched today. But after the French threw everything at the All Black kitchen sink last weekend they lacked the extra fizz to convert their huge territorial advantage into points. Although this game had intensity it was in large parts an aerial ping pong display where the boot ruled. And everybody knows that if it comes down to the boot, then the team with Jonny Wilkinson will probably prevail.

England surprised the French by climbing on board early with an opportunist Josh Lewsey try off a French fumble from the kick off. This proved to be the only try of the test as as both sides closed down for a more physical encounter - exchanging penalties, kicking for field position and occasionally having a go at each other's line.

The old adage of the team who scores first in the second half will win did not come home to roost this time for Bernard Laporte's men. After Lionel Beauxis kicked his third penalty to take the lead 9-5, England ground their way back into the game. At around the 73rd minute, Wilkinson nailed a penalty after the ever inspiring Jason Robinson suffered a head high tackle and the balance of power shifted between the two teams. In every match there comes a moment where you just know who will be walking home the victor. For me this was England's moment. Wilkinson put the nail into the coffin in the dying minutes with a trademark drop goal and the 30,000 English spectators roared.

I haven't been kind to England (because they have been rubbish these last four years) but tonight I have nothing but admiration for a team that has been so low in the past. They showed incredible spirit, self belief and they deserve to be in the final. They have come back from the depths of despair, have been in tatters after their period with Andy Robinson, have suffered injuries to key players and have often looked like a team that has been walking around on antidepressants. Key credit has to lie with their humble coach Brian Ashton, their battling spirit, their crunching forwards, their old heads (Mike Catt, Jason Robinson take a bow) and of course their main man, Jonny. The guy represents everything good about rugby.

England beat Australia in extra-time to win the last World Cup final in 2003 and by beating France, they join Australia as the only countries to play in three World Cup finals and two in succession. Well done Engerland.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You've just about nailed it there I'd say Ferdy. You'd have got some pretty generous odds on England making it this far a few short weeks ago (though I suspect you'd have been carted off in a padded wagon long before now for even having the temerity to put the money down). Ok, so it's been a triumph for dogged perseverence and stretch-to-breaking sinews above anything more glamorous, but what a beautifully ugly spectacle that's given us. Even the ugly was often less than competent last night - for all the kicking practice both sides were getting throughout the game, the misplacement rate stayed disturbingly high. What of it though? Drama and excitement to the end and a team that has deserved most if not all of its domestic and international pillorying over the last 4 years now deserves exactly the kind of plaudits you give it. It will be interesting to see how this World Cup of the underdog is remembered by posterity once the memory of its many surprises fades - but for this Englishman, the last week will live as the time of the clenched-buttock and the gaping mouth of disbelief. An open and shut case you might say! And what of 4 years time? The ABs of course - I give you my word on that. But maybe, just maybe, I'll have a little each-way wager on England just for fun. Stranger things have happened...

Stuey said...

60-1 I think.

Stunned at the way England have turned it round. It just shouldn't have happened should it.

Nursedude said...

Ferdy, this game was a mix of heart and pluck by the English and horrible tactics and execution by the French. Beauxis really had a lousy game. I lost count of how many times the French pissed away possession and just kicked the ball away or out of back touch line. I actually paid money via pay per view to watch this drab rugby version of Trench warfare. That is not to say that there were not heros on both sides, I think there were: I thought Betsen played a helluva a match a week after getting knocked loopy, and then a group award for the English forwards, who have shown more grit and resilience than a SAS platoon.

steve bet on football said...

The "rolling up the sleeves and driving up the middle" approach will not alone win a team the world cup, as england have found out in 2007.


They looked short of ideas in the backs throughout the tournement and the two physical encouters against samoa and france in the quarters and semis must have taken something out of them prior to the big showdown with south africa...


If they had displayed creativity and invention with ball in hand, asking more questions of south africa's defence, i believe they would have had a better chance of retaining the trophy.


It was apparent at half time (in the final) that england chose to adopt the "up the middle" approach and it did not pay off against the hard men from South Africa...