Rugby World Cup 2007
Jonny boots England to World Cup final
October 13, 2007
Jonny Wilkinson attempts to convert Josh Lewsey's early try
© Getty Images
Jonny Wilkinson was the hero once again as England reached the World Cup final with victory over France in Paris. Wilkinson landed two second-half penalties and a drop goal as England kept alive their dreams of a successful World Cup defence.
England had stormed into the lead after just 80 seconds with a try from winger Josh Lewsey but spent most of the first half under pressure. France fly-half Lionel Beauxis landed three penalties to edge Les Bleus ahead, but England rallied and will play either South Africa or Argentina in the final.
England made the perfect start to take the lead with a try from Josh Lewsey after just 80 seconds.
Damien Traille appeared to have the ball covered but hesitated for a moment - and the bounce was perfect for the on-rushing Lewsey, who powered through the French full-back to score.
Wilkinson's kick drifted wide, and France responded within five minutes with a penalty from fly-half Lionel Beauxis.
Mark Regan's charge-down earned England a five-metre scrum, and France were under huge pressure until scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde stole around the base to disrupt - and Les Bleus cleared.
England's defence held strong against the driving maul and a counter-attack sparked by Vincent Clerc. But Andrew Sheridan was penalised for not binding, and Beauxis landed his second penalty to put France ahead.
France were pressing England deep into their own half with excellent tactical kicking from Beauxis and Traille and England struggled to relieve the pressure.
France earned a controversial lineout when Robinson was judged to have brushed the touchline but England's defence was quick to close in on Beauxis, who scuffed an attempted drop goal.
Sale's Sebastien Chabal replaced injured lock Fabien Pelous. England were having to battle for every inch of territory.
Quick hands saw Sackey and then Robinson stretch the French before Traille recovered well but Wilkinson missed with a long-range drop-goal effort of his own.
A half-break from Mat Tait had stretched the French midfield and England earned a penalty a yard inside their own half.
Wilkinson took it on and his effort had the legs but just fell wide.
Beauxis was trying his luck at any opportunity and a third drop-goal attempt dropped short and wide.
Sections of the home support were beginning to tire of France's determination to engage in a kicking duel.
England were forced into a backline reshuffle on the brink of half-time after Lewsey appeared to damage a hamstring. Dan Hipkiss came on at outside centre with Tait moved to the wing.
England gathered the restart well and Lewis Moody made good ground on a determined run but Sackey lost possession in the tackle and England were turned on their heels as France hacked forward.
Hipkiss beat Cedric Heymans in the sprint and England recovered to clear but Easter was penalised for hitting a ruck from the side and Beauxis landed his third penalty.
Moody snatched possession from Jauzion's attempted chip and Hipkiss, on his first run at the French defence, jinked into space and offloaded for Catt.
Tait was stopped in the corner but after Sheridan had charged on France were penalised at the breakdown and Wilkinson slotted his first kick of the evening.
Ten minutes into the second half, France sent on Frederik Michalak for Beauxis and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski for captain Rafael Ibanez.
Gomarsall covered to concede a five-metre scrum after a deft chip into the corner from Clerc and England halted Elissalde's attempts to attack the blind-side.
Michalak's first contribution was to hook a drop-goal attempt wide before England sent on Joe Worsley for Moody and then Matt Stevens for Phil Vickery.
England's kicking game was keeping France inside their own half. Wilkinson's right-footed drop-goal attempt hit the post and Robinson then danced through four attempted tackles on a dazzling run to move England within five yards.
But the promising position was wasted as England conceded at the breakdown and allowed France to clear.
France's line-out drive had England on the retreat inside their own 22, and Michalak chipped into space behind the defence. But Tait was alert under his own posts to sweep up the danger.
Number eight Julien Bonnaire palmed Jauzion's cross-kick back into play for Clerc, who appeared to have broken the English defence before Worsley felled him with an excellent tap tackle.
Chabal took the ball on but knocked forward, and some powerful English defence at close quarters earned the penalty - and Wilkinson cleared.
Toby Flood replaced Catt; Dallaglio was sent on for Easter with just 11 minutes remaining, and Peter Richards took over from Gomarsall - who was injured in a collision with the touch judge.
Robinson was emerging as a key factor. Another jinking run put England on the offensive, and Corry crashed over the gain line as they moved into drop-goal territory.
Flood rushed his effort - but when Robinson was felled by a high tackle from Szarzewski 30 metres Wilkinson landed the simple penalty to put England ahead with just six minutes remaining.
There was more to come too.
After Sackey and Flood had halted a powerful run from Chabal on the touchline, England moved back into the French half - and Wilkinson landed the drop goal.
England: J Robinson (unattached); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tait (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), J Lewsey (Wasps); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), P Richards (London Irish), T Flood (Newcastle), D Hipkiss (Leicester).
France: D Traille (Biarritz); V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), C Heymans (Toulouse); L Beauxis (Stade Francais), J-B Elissalde (Toulouse); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (Wasps, capt), P de Villiers (Stade Francais), F Pelous (Toulouse), J Thion (Biarritz), S Betsen (Biarritz), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin).
Replacements: J-B Poux (Toulouse), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), S Chabal (Sale Sharks), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), F Michalak (Toulouse), C Dominici (Stade Francais), C Poitrenaud (Toulouse).
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).
Touch judges: Paul Honiss (New Zealand) and Marius Jonker (South Africa).