RWC #33: Elton Flatley’s nerves of steel keep Australia in 2003 final

Wallabies centre lands late penalty to take game to extra time and keep hosts in World Cup

Elton Flatley’s nerve-jangling late penalty kept Australia in the 2003 World Cup final. Photograph: Getty

Elton Flatley’s nerve-jangling late penalty kept Australia in the 2003 World Cup final. Photograph: Getty

 

The 2003 World Cup final will forever be remembered for THAT moment.

The scrambled drop goal which left Jonny Wilkinson’s right boot and sailed over the posts is immortalised, and quite rightly so. Slotting a kick in the dying moments of rugby’s most important game to beat one of your biggest rivals to the biggest trophy isn’t something which happens every day.

However there were two other kicks made that night in Sydney which took remarkable bottle but are little remembered because they were made in a losing cause.

Despite having taken an early lead through Lote Tuqiri, Australia found themselves on the ropes for much of the game but clawed their way back within three points as the clock ticked down.

Then in the game’s final play, and to the dismay of every packed rugby clubhouse around England, referee Andre Watson awarded Australia a penalty.

Step forward Elton Flatley. The kick was on England’s 22, to the right of the posts. The Wallabies were losing 14-11. This was a kick to keep his country in the World Cup. In their World Cup.

Flatley fiddled with his kicking tee a few times and then with the world watching he held his nerve, found his mark and kept Australia alive.

Had Flatley missed, his country would have lost the World Cup. (That they went on to lose it anyway is irrelevant.)

In the 97th minute of extra-time Flatley found himself in a similar situation, with a penalty to level the scores at 17-17. He made it showing nerves of unyielding steel again, only for Wilkinson to strike three minutes later.

Flatley was the third top scorer of the tournament with 100 points and deserves a mention for his role with the boot in a game remembered for a kick from of England’s number 10.

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