Wilkinson boots out Wallabies

Wilkinson boots out Wallabies

France defeated the All Blacks 20-18 in Cardiff while England's forwards, as well as the trusty boot of Jonny Wilkinson, over-powered the Wallabies 12-10 in Marseille.

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For New Zealand, who were 13-3 ahead at the break at the Millennium Stadium, defeat was as devastating as their 43-31 loss to France in the 1999 semi-final at Twickenham.

Early departures

It was also the first time in the World Cup's 20-year history that New Zealand had failed to reach the semi-finals.

In Marseille, Jonny Wilkinson and defending champions England again proved Australia's nemesis in a tense 12-10 win at the Stade Velodrome.

England, who downed the Wallabies in the 2003 final in extra-time and the 1995 quarter-final both with drop goals, came from 10-6 down at halftime.

Aust under pressure

England, with Wilkinson setting a new World Cup points-scoring career record of 234, had the Australians under relentless pressure with their forwards preventing the Wallabies from gaining any momentum.

Wilkinson again kicked England to victory as he did in Sydney four years ago with his extra-time drop goal, this time landing four penalties from seven attempts with the Wallabies coming up with the only try through winger Lote Tuqiri.

"I thought we were the better side, but it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard and it became a bit of a nail-biter in the last 10 minutes.

“I'm just so pleased for this group of players," England coach Brian Ashton says.

‘Guts’ aided to victory

Skipper Phil Vickery said self-belief and 'good old-fashioned' guts got England home.

"There were lots of things that went into today's win, but ultimately we showed what England can do and good old-fashioned guts," he says.

"We came out prepared to put ourselves into positions where it was going to hurt and we had to push ourselves to levels which we haven't got to for a sustained period in previous games."

‘Unfounded criticism’

"You write us off at your peril. We had a huge amount of criticism, some of that criticism was justified but a majority of it wasn't."

Wilkinson says: "The energy and sheer desire to get on the loose ball and then get off the floor and get back in the game saved us.

“Everyone was great at getting back into the line."

Sad farewell for key players

For Australia, it was a bitter international farewell for record-capped scrum-half George Gregan, in his 139th Test match, and also for his long-time team-mate 102-capped Stephen Larkham, who missed the match with a knee injury.

"It was our worst performance," says coach John Connolly who also coached his last game for the Wallabies.

"England controlled the breakdown very strongly and from that we never got any momentum. Our game never got off the ground."