Defending champions England again proved Australia’s nemesis, dumping the match favourites out of the Rugby World Cup with a high-pressured 12-10 quarterfinal victory at Stade Velodrome in Marseilles on Saturday.
England, who downed the Wallabies in the 2003 final in extra-time and in the 1995 quarterfinal, both with drop goals, handled the high stakes better and came home from 10-6 down at half-time to advance to next weekend’s semifinal against New Zealand or France in Paris.
England, with Jonny Wilkinson setting a new World Cup points-scoring career record, had the Australians under continual pressure for most of the game, with the Wallabies rarely able to get any flow against the tenacious Englishmen.
Wilkinson again proved the winning difference, just as he was in Sydney four years ago with his extra-time drop goal, kicking four penalties with the Wallabies scoring the only try of the match through winger Lote Tuqiri.
The dominant English forwards won their battle and the Australians looked hesitant at times, with scrumhalf George Gregan slow to keep up with the play and rookie flyhalf Berrick Barnes under pressure in his big test as injured Stephen Larkham’s replacement.
Stirling Mortlock had a 47m shot at a penalty goal to win it for the Wallabies with two minutes left, but it went wide.
The Wallabies began well and had three penalty attempts in the first 12 minutes before England got their momentum flowing with a strong passage of play, switching angles with the forwards driving the ball downfield.
Wilkinson broke the World Cup point-scoring record of 227 points by Scotland’s Gavin Hastings with his second penalty goal to kick England to a 6-3 lead in the 26th-minute after Stirling Mortlock’s seventh-minute penalty.
England then took the game to the Wallabies and came close to scoring on a couple of occasions before Mike Catt lost the ball for Matt Giteau to clear the danger.
The first scrum came after 11 minutes and broke up with punches flying after three collapses. Irish referee Alain Rolland whistled a penalty to the Australians.
The Wallabies looked rattled for a time with passes from Gregan and Barnes going astray under grinding England pressure.
But the Australians hit back seven minutes before half-time when, after six phases, they flung the ball along the backs where Barnes and Mortlock made an opening for winger Lote Tuqiri to break his try-scoring drought and scoring in the right-corner.
It was Tuqiri’s first Test try since scoring two against Fiji in Perth on June 9.
Mortlock’s conversion pushed the Wallabies out to a 10-6 half-time lead but they had showed signs of losing their composure and gave Wilkinson four shots at goal in the opening half, the English flyhalf only kicking two of them.
England had the Wallabies under pressure straight after half-time with the Australian scrum coming under serious examination 10m out from its try-line.
England had nine phases before the Wallabies conceded a penalty for Wilkinson to land his third and put his team within one point after 53 minutes.
A wayward Gregan pass put the Australians under pressure with Tuqiri and Barnes scrambling to hold possession, but England got a turnover and then were awarded an attacking scrum close to the Wallaby try-line.
Rocky Elsom conceded a penalty for Wilkinson to put England in front for the second time 12-10 on the hour.
Another Gregan error in a ruck gave Wilkinson another shot at penalty but his attempt was wide with six minutes left. — AFP