'South Africa have been the class outfit'

Britain’s newspapers on Sunday hailed the bravery and spirit of England’s defeated World Cup side, praising South Africa for their win but mulling over a controversial refereeing decision.

For those who managed to squeeze match reports into their first editions, newspapers said South Africa were worthy winners in the game’s showpiece occasion in Paris.

“The 2003 world champions [England] will know that on the day, they were not the better side,” said the Sunday Times, saying England failed to dominate the lineout in the first half and did not take advantage of territorial advantage.

The Sunday Telegraph‘s Paul Ackford, himself a former England lock, said it was a “hugely worthy effort” but “on the balance of play there can be few complaints from England”.

South Africa’s 15-6 win was a “fitting reward for a host of fine players”, he said, and “at the end the best side in this World Cup prevailed”.

“South Africa have been the class outfit. They have faced down all challenges and challengers and they have done so with dignity and no little class.”

“England made them work very hard to earn their triumph but they are worthy winners and the trophy is in good hands for the next four years.”

A number of newspapers mulled over referee Alain Rolland’s decision not to award what appeared to be a try from England’s Mark Cueto early in the second-half after a ruling from the video referee Stuart Dickinson.

The News of the World, which normally concentrates on football, headlined its report “A reffin’ disaster”, saying Rolland “did them no favours” with “a string of debatable decisions”.

It speculated that the video referee’s nationality may have had something to do with the decision, pointing out: “Stuart Dickinson is an Aussie by the way”.

The Sunday Times said the chances of England turning the tide rested “on a decision of millimetres”, while the Sunday Telegraph, its front page showing disappointed England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, speculated on the “try controversy”.

But both said the better team won on the night.

Elsewhere the newspapers praised England’s remarkable comeback after poor showings in the pool stages, which included a 36-0 defeat to South Africa.

Many called it one of the nation’s greatest sporting comebacks, comparing it to England’s cricketers in their 2005 Ashes win over Australia or its footballers 1966 World Cup win.

The Sunday Express said the men in white had already been redeemed from the earlier thrashing by South Africa but glory proved elusive at the last.

“There was no disgrace in that whatsoever.
These players had overachieved wildly even to be on rugby’s grandest stage last night,” it said. “They will come home to a nation’s admiration and fondness.”

There was also praise for France for hosting what many considered was the best tournament while fans were lauded for their good-natured rivalry and behaviour.

The Sunday Times could not resist a dig at England’s traditional sporting rivals.

“On that memorable Parisian night, with the city awash with white and green and gold shirts in good-natured rivalry, they were there. Unlike say, France, New Zealand or Australia.” - Sapa-AFP

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