Advantages Best team ever
Disadvantages May choke
|Are they fun to watch?|
From hero to...erm...hero in the space of 24 hours. Having scored the try that secured England’s victory over a stubborn Springbok team, Will Greenwood flies home to be with his wife. With a difficult birth ensuing, the England man has proved that family does come above sport in stark contrast to Nasser Hussein taking his pregnant partner on the cricketer’s tour of Oz.I thought that this was a nice finish to an excellent weekend for the national team. In retrospect, the previous encounter at Twickenham had proved a false comparison, what with the barbarous tactics of the Boks that day resulting in them playing the game out with just 13 men. A thumping win for England was never going to be an accurate pointer to this World Cup show down and so it proved on Saturday.
Like most long suffering England fans, I can remember plenty of false dawns down the years. Flattering to deceive, a combination of New Zealand behemoth (Jona lomu); South African drop kicks and Aussie supremacy have kept England at bay in previous world cups. All conquering in the 5/6 Nations, it’s taken until now for England to gain any sort of upper hand over the Southern hemisphere crew. Impressive wins in the back yards of both New Zealand and Australia have catapulted England to the status of favourites for this tournament and justifiably so.And so the class of 2003. With a serious intent and the expectations of a nation, the team arrived in Australia with more than a suggestion that it might win a competition of this magnitude at long last.
The kick off times in this tournament have proved accessible for the hordes of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot merchants wanting to watch the team do it’s stuff down under. Make no mistake, this is THE best England team we’ve ever seen.Having spent the morning at work, it was with a foot glued to the floor that I pushed the usual speed limits to make it in front of a TV for what would prove to be a decisive encounter in England’s pool. The winner would almost certainly go on to top the group and face an easier draw through the quarter and semi-finals. A win was crucial.
I must admit, I had to listen to the radio commentary on 5-Live for the first ten minutes and you could feel the tension without having to see any pictures. The commentary team described the expressions on the team’s face as determined and tense.The support out there in Perth sounded staggering with numerous Barmy Army in the crowd. The opening exchanges saw an England team on top. The strongest team possible was out notwithstanding injuries to key players i.e. Matt Dawson and Richard Hill allowing Kyran Bracken an involvement.
The first half saw South Africa gain the upper hand. With England making too many handling errors, the Boks made good progress through the forwards giving the other big teams in the competition a steer as to how to undo the favourites. A Jonny Wilkinson (He of the David Beckham double act ads) penalty put England ahead to which he added a further score before half time. Scores were equal but only due to some dreadful penalty kicking from Koen who managed to clock up 4 misses, most of which were straight forward pots from reasonable range.The second half saw a different England. Far more assertive and with much better ball retention, they turned ball possession around in their favour. Even with that, it took another defensive lapse to finally see daylight between the teams. On 62 minutes, the unfortunate Koen took a routine pass in his own 22 with the chance to boot for touch only for his kick to be charged down by the hyperactive Lewis Moody allowing a gleeful Greenwood to touch down with a discrete showboat to celebrate behind the goal. That gave England a 19-6 lead with the conversion.
That moment saw the South Africans look defeated for the first time in the game. To their credit and national pride, the Springboks kept going although never really looked like penetrating a solid England defence. Some finely worked drop goals from Wilkinson saw England home and sighs of relief all around.This was an excellent win. A mixed response met the result with luminaries like David Campese alluding to a probable gameplan that had opened up for the juggernauts lying in wait in the later stages in the competition. Others called it dour and uninspired but New Zealand will not be relishing the prospect of playing South Africa in the quarter finals.
Under the auspices of Clive Woodward, the England coach, the national team has made its way to the top of the pile. A Grand Slam along with wins over all the Southern Hemisphere movers and shakers sees a proud team in white at the pinnacle of world rankings. With the superstar of the competition being Jonny Wilkinson, it’s an amazing fact that he is the youngest member of the team.Martin Johnson has come in for a lot of stick this year. Accused of being a dirty player in some quarters (especially South African) he is a towering figure in the England plan. Kyran Bracken showed the power of the reserves with a superb display proving that there is life after Matt Dawson. With a back line to die for, England appears to have the power to score from just about anywhere on the pitch. The thundering forward line stuttered for once under intense South African pressure although I can’t help thinking that the Bok’s performance has been underestimated by the rugby community in general. This is a very proud sporting nation who will literally give blood for their country.
With more excitement to come, it must be good for the country to see it’s National team do so well. I can still recall being in a pub in Birmingham ready to watch England in a world cup final against Australia (1991, I think). The landlord had laid on free food and there was a carnival atmosphere throughout the city centre. Sadly, things didn’t live up to expectation and England lost in a drab affair. There was a really sense of anti-climax and it would be great to put that experience to bed in the guise of an England win this time around. I genuinely think that this is our year.Thanks for reading
South Africa 6: J v d Westhuyzen; A Willemse, J Muller, D W Barry, T Delport; L Koen, J v d Westhuizen; C Bezuidenhout, D Coetzee, R Bands, B Botha, V Matfield, C Krige (capt), J v Niekerk, J Smith.
Replacements: J Smit, L Sephaka, S Boome, D Rossouw, N De Kock, D Hougaard, W Greeff.
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment