RWC #2: Jonny Wilkinson drops for World Cup glory

England lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time with last kick of 2003 final in Sydney

Jonny Wilkinson’s last minute dropgoal won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Getty

Jonny Wilkinson’s last minute dropgoal won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Photograph: Getty

 

In the year leading up to the 2003 World Cup England had done something no other side had achievedbefore and beaten all of the other major nations.

In late 2002 New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were all beaten at Twickenham. In the 2003 Six Nations Clive Woodward’s side thrashed Ireland at Lansdowne Road to seal the Grand Slam. In June, Australia and New Zealand were beaten in their own backyard.

England were the best team in the world, but if they didn’t become the first Northern Hemisphere side to lift the Webb Ellis Cup the year’s achievements would have felt like scant consolation. They needed the big one.

And it would take until the very last kick of the very last game for a good year to become a golden one.

In truth, the 2003 World Cup final should never really have gone to extra time. England took a 14-5 lead against their old rivals Australia in Sydney but allowed the hosts to creep back into it, twice Elton Flatley nailing nerve shredding penalties to keep his side alive.

For those involved it probably felt like an age, but the 20 minutes of extra time were soon running out and when Mat Rogers cleared the Wallabies lines with the score tied at 17-17 England were left with one chance to make history.

England won their lineout and the search for vital yards began. They had to get within range. They had to give Johnny Wilkinson a shot at goal.

Matt Dawson made a sniping break to get England well within the Australia 22. Wilkinson was in position. Richard Hill thought about the pass but came to his senses and England ran one more phase.

There were 30 seconds left. The whole world knew what was coming. Australia could do nothing but watch, and hope.

Dawson dummied, buying Wilkinson a precious yard and then fed his fly half in the pocket.

Wilkinson gathered the ball. The kick was on his wrong foot, he didn’t hit it cleanly.

Time stopped as the scrambled ball sailed between the posts in the Sydney rain.

And that was it. England had won the World Cup.

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