England shock Wallabies to reach semi finals
October 6, 2007
England celebrate after securing passage to the World Cup semi-finals
© Getty Images
England kept their World Cup defence alive with a dramatic quarter-final victory over Australia in Marseille. The Wallabies had no answer to England's forward power and the victory was secured by four Jonny Wilkinson penalties.
Australia had led at half-time through a Lote Tuqiri try but their World Cup hopes were dashed by England for the second successive tournament.
It was an incredible display from England, given three weeks ago they were beaten 36-0 by South Africa. Brian Ashton's men now head to Paris for a semi-final against either New Zealand or France.
Australia held the edge at half-time after Tuqiri crashed over the line to score his first try of the tournament. The England forwards tried to batter their way through Australia's defence in the opening exchanges but were pushed back in virtually every tackle. But expectations they would play 10 man rugby proved unfounded and when England threw the ball wide they made ground.
Paul Sackey enjoyed a half break down the right wing after combining well with Robinson before Lewis Moody charged though a hole in the Wallaby defence.
Some good pressure on Barnes forced the fly-half to kick long - but England messed up the 22-drop out and Nick Easter turned the ball over.
It was a recurring theme early on as England conceded careless penalties and Mortlock, having missed his first shot at goal, slotted Australia ahead after six minutes.
But England were not scared to try things.
Wilkinson changed his running angle looking for an opening under the Australia posts and Catt then dabbed a clever chip into the corner which Sackey just failed to hold on to.
England were furious after referee Alain Rolland penalised them at the scrum despite the fact it appeared as if the Wallabies were struggling to cope with the power of Andrew Sheridan. But from 45 metres out and in front of the posts, Mortlock hooked his kick wide left.
England piled the pressure on after Robinson burst onto an excellent offload from Simon Shaw with Easter and Catt both making half-breaks but they could not finish it off.
Giteau hacked clear but England came again and rattled the Australian defence as Wilkinson and Catt provided a twin-attacking threat.
Australia were all at sea and hooker Stephen Moore sliced a clearance from under his own posts. This time England came away with points as Wilkinson slotted his first penalty shot at goal.
England finally won a penalty at the scrum - referee Rolland's decision was greeted with ironic cheers by the sizeable red rose army of supporters - and Wilkinson kicked England ahead. The penalty, from 38 metres out and just to the left of the posts, saw Wilkinson become the leading points scorer in World Cup history.
England were in commanding mood and the forwards were dominant. They piled in to win back possession after Latham had claimed a high up-and-under.
And when Nathan Sharpe leaned over the ruck to grab hold of Pete Richards - on as a blood replacement for Andy Gomarsall - Wilkinson was presented with his third penalty shot. This time it slid across the face of the posts and wide.
Latham then scythed into the England 22 with an elusive run. The Wallabies attack was static and lacked ideas until Barnes sent Mortlock away.
The skipper was stopped just short of the line by Mathew Tait but Barnes flicked the quick pass to Lote Tuqiri, who crashed through Lewsey to score his first try of the World Cup.
Wilkinson then missed his second shot at goal after the forwards had once again forced Australia to concede a penalty at the breakdown.
Australia snatched possession at the lineout and when England regathered, Wilkinson dropped a pass from Tait as England tried to attack down the left wing.
The Australia scrum crumbled under England's power and Wallaby number eight Wycluff Palu was snared by Gomarsall. The ball dropped loose but Wilkinson's pass was too sharp for Catt and he could not hold on as he ran under the posts.
Loose-head Sheridan was in dominant form in the front row. He clashed with Matt Dunning after Australia's scrum had splintered and Wallaby tight-head Guy Shepherdson was then given a warning by referee Rolland over his binding.
England claimed a lineout 10 metres from the Wallabies line and drove for the line. Sheridan took it on and Australia conceded again at the breakdown, allowing Wilkinson to bring England to within a point.
Australia began to build an attack but a loose pass from Gregan was hacked forward by Tait and chased by Wilkinson and Lewsey.
Tuqiri was isolated, turned over and England earned a five-metre scrum as Australia failed to deal with Gomarsall's high ball straight into the sun and knocked on.
Matt Stevens was sent on for the scrum in place of Vickery and Australia were driven back onto their own line and conceded another penalty which Wilkinson converted to push England 12-10 ahead on the hour.
England were dominant up front but when Australia ran with the ball in hand they looked dangerous and Barnes slipped a clever inside ball to Ashley-Cooper.
But Sackey hauled him down well and Australia again struggled to retain possession as England recovered and cleared.
Mortlock burst through Martin Corry's tackle but ran straight into a thunderous hit from Wilkinson before Sackey produced a try-saving man-and-ball challenge on Latham.
Catt, who took a blow to the face early in the second half, eventually conceded defeat with 17 minutes remaining and was replaced by Flood.
The Newcastle centre's first touch set the platform for Sheridan to charge over the gainline and slip an excellent offload to Shaw who galloped on.
Lewsey could not quite cling onto possession in the tackle but England kept the pressure on with Flood kicking Australia back into their 22.
England snatched back possession and Wilkinson attempted a drop-goal which slid wide.
Wilkinson missed again with a 50-metre penalty after England's forwards had won yet another turnover at the breakdown.
England's hearts were in their mouths when Worsley was penalised at the ruck but Mortlock's long-range penalty, from near the left touchline, dropped wide.
The champions defended with huge bravery in the closing stages to defy the Wallabies and defy the odds to reach the World Cup semi-finals.
Australia (10) 10
England (6) 12
England: Robinson; Sackey, Tait, Catt, Lewsey; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery (capt), Shaw, Kay, Corry, Moody, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Flood, Hipkiss.
Australia: Latham; Ashley-Cooper, Mortlock, Giteau, Tuqiri; Barnes, Gregan; Dunning, Moore, Shepherdson, Sharpe, Vickerman, Elsom, Smith, Palu.
Replacements: Freier, Baxter, McMeniman, Hoiles, Waugh, Huxley, Mitchell.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape
Move over, Castro - from falling off a chair to stepping off the team bus, Scrum Sevens recounts some of the strangest rugby injuries ever