Rugby World Cup 2003
England snuff out Welsh revival
Graham Jenkins reports from the Suncorp Stadium
November 9, 2003
Will Greenwood struggles across the Welsh line to score
© Getty Images
England recovered from a first half scare to see off a determined Wales 28-17 at the Suncorp Stadium and set up a semi-final showdown with France next weekend.
As on many occasion spreviously it was the boot of Jonny Wilkinson that rescued England from 10-3 first half deficit to eventually claim 23 points and ensure Clive Woodward's side took their place with the game's big guns in the last four of the World Cup.
Despite outscoring their rivals three tries to one, Steve Hansen's side must pack their bags and go home but their performance not only today but last weekend against the All Blacks will have gone a long way to restoring some pride to Wales.
The game exploded into life with England scrum-half Matt Dawson sniping through the Welsh line in the opening minutes but the defence scrambled back to bring an end to the England surge inside the 22, but Jonathan Thomas was penalised at the breakdown.
Jonny Wilkinson stepped up to attempt to open the scores but his effort hit the post and Steve Hansen's side took this as a sign, as if they needed one, that they were here to give England a game.
Wales looked keen to throw the ball around and they stormed into England territory with Mark Taylor, Mark Jones and Thomas combining to make big gains. England were forced to scramble this time but Wales worked the opening out wide and Robert Sidoli was presented with a glorious chance to silence the large English following but he spilled the ball under pressure from Lewis Moody as he looked to crash over for the score.
Full of confidence from their opening forays, Wales continued to press, probing Dan Luger's wing on more than one occasion where they benfitted from a shocker of a half from the Perpignan-bound star.
Big tackles from Wales appeared to be knocking England out of their stride, illustrated clearly at one point where Neil Back was penalised for obstruction as Jason Robinson looked to launch a counter-attack while under some pressure in his 22.
Stephen Jones showed he could hit the post aswell with his penalty attempt as the scores remained level on the quarter hour. Tempers threatened to boil over due to the frustration of both sides to get a grip on the game, and it was the boot of Wilkinson that finally opened the scores as Wales went over the top in their eagerness to see yet more of the ball.
England began to exert more pressure and hammered the Welsh line with a succession of attacks but tall they had to show for thrity odd phases of possession in the Wales 22 was a missed drop goal from Wilkinson. Wales' resolute defence was in no mood to crumble.
Buoyed by their success in defence, the Welsh backline looked to test England's defence and they soon got reward. Uncharacteristically England looked pressured on the ball, as they have done against South Africa and Samoa earlier in the tournament, and a cross kick clearance to of all people Ben Kay was snaffled by Rhys Williams. He soon skipped round the England lock and Gareth Thomas and Gareth Cooper supported before Stephen Jones lit the game up with the opening try.
Jones missed the conversion but little did he know he would have another conversion chance just a couple of minutes later. With Jason Robinson wrapped up on the Wales 22, the kick went into the hole left by him and foot-race ensued between Ben Cohen and Williams. The England wing won the race but was penalised for not releasing. Sensing blood once more the kick from Jones went to the corner.
From the lineout, the Welsh pack dished out some of England's usual medicine and drove them back before skipper Colin Charvis barged through to really set the cat amongst the pigeons. But again Jones missed with the conversion attempt. But Wales went into the break very much on top.
England began the second half freshly kitted out as if they would have liked to start over and the change seemed to have the desired effect. Once again they refused to panic and backed their ability to pull themselves back into the game thanks largely to the introduction of Mike Catt.
Robinson finally found the half gap he has craved in this tournament and his blinding turn of pace carried him into the Wales 22 where Will Greenwood popped up in support and he had the momentum to crash over in the corner. Wilkinson nailed an excellent conversion and England were back in business.
England surged forward again as they looked to redress the balance of power but this time Greenwood was held up over the line but the pressure was beginning to take its toll on the Welsh.
The infringements began to stack up against Wales and with a man like Wilkinson there to lap up the opportunities the England lead was suddenly 12 points with the England fly-half slotting four in a row.
But just as England looked to be winding this game down, Wales rallied once more to rattle England. A drive took them deep into the England 22, then they conjured a cross kick, another regular England tactic, and although Williams couldn't claim the ball under pressure, replacement Martyn Williams was there to touch the ball down for the score. Iestyn Harris notched the extras and Wales grabbed a new life with ten minutes to go.
England began to struggle for composure but when Harris was offered another chance to cut the gap to just five the pressure told and he produced the worst effort of the evening.
Wilkinson put the final nail in the coffin of Wales' spirited RWC'03 campaign with a drop goal with the last kick of the game.
England: Robinson, Luger, Greenwood, Tindall, Cohen, Wilkinson, Dawson, Leonard, Thompson, Vickery, Johnson, Kay, Moody, Back, Dallaglio.
Replacements: Catt for Luger (40), Abbott for Greenwood (55), Bracken for Dawson (68), Woodman for Leonard (46).
Not Used: West, Shaw, Worsley.
Wales: G. Thomas, M. Jones, Taylor, Harris, S. Williams, S. Jones, Cooper, I. Thomas, McBryde, A. Jones, Cockbain, Sidoli, D. Jones, Charvis, J. Thomas.
Replacements: Peel for Cooper (64), Davies for McBryde (64), Jenkins for A. Jones (27), Llewellyn for Cockbain (45), M. Williams for J. Thomas (58).
Not Used: Sweeney, Morgan.
Referee: A. Rolland (Ire)
Scorers: England: 28 Try: Greenwood Con: Wilkinson Pen: Wilkinson (6) DG: Wilkinson
Wales: 17 Tries: Jones, Charvis, M. Williams Con: Harris