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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Springboks See Off England To Claim Second World Cup Title

Springboks See Off England To Claim Second World Cup Title

England’s brave bid to defend their World Cup crown was ended by South Africa on Saturday night as five precise penalty goals from Percy Montgomery (4) and Francois Steyn were enough for the Springboks to win their second final in twelve years.

WORLD CUP FINAL: Saturday, October 20

ENGLAND 6 SOUTH AFRICA 15, Stade de France, Saint-Denis (Att: 80,000)

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Scorers: England: Pens: Jonny Wilkinson 2
South Africa: Pens: Percy Montgomery 4, Francois Steyn

As is often the case in a sporting final of such magnitude, Saturday’s decider was a tight affair dominated by defences and decided by place kicks with the tournament’s top scorer Percy Montgomery emerging as the match winner.

England, with their pack willing but ultimately outplayed, gained 55% possession and 57% territory over the 80 minutes, but the Springboks’ lineout prowess and water-tight defence meant they had little difficulty defending their lead.

Tellingly, the ‘Boks won all 13 of their lineouts and forced England to lose seven of their 26 throws.

Even when Jake White’s men did waiver slightly – English winger Mark Cueto had a try ruled out by television match official Stuart Dickinson but Jonny Wilkinson kicked a subsequent penalty for 9-6 – they managed to hit back quickly with clinching penalties from Montgomery and Steyn.

Wilkinson kicked all of England’s points but could not prevent the ‘Boks from joining Australia as the only two-time winners of the World Cup – their first success was back in 1995, on home soil, when they beat New Zealand after extra-time try in the only other tryless final in World Cup history.

Discipline was the key for the South Africans as they allowed Wilkinson only two penalty goal opportunities over the entire game and England’s 2003 final-winning hero also missed two drop goal attempts.

An error from young centre Mathew Tait – the 21-year-old slipped and was caught holding onto possession on the deck – allowed full-back Montgomery to kick the ‘Boks into a seventh-minute lead.

Bryan Habana, who had equalled Jonah Lomu’s tournament record of eight tries before the final, was pinged for preventing his wing counterpart Paul Sackey from releasing at a ruck six minutes and Wilkinson kicked England level.

It was nip and tuck as Montgomery replied with his second penalty after Butch James had been impeded when chasing a kick through.

With little open play and both sides opting to kick for field position or pick and drive off rucks, the game was sadly one of the least entertaining of what has been one of the most memorable and unpredictable World Cups in history.

It was somewhat inevitable that such a scenario would ensue with kicks deciding the destiny of the Webb Ellis Cup. England had tightened up considerably since their 36-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa in the pool stages last month.

The ‘Boks played to their strengths – using a sound kicking game and the brute force of their forwards around the pitch and out of touch – and while it was far from pretty, it was particularly effective in bottling up England’s limited attack.

After Wilkinson had sent a drop goal shot wide of the posts, a late push from the ‘Boks handed Montgomery a chance to boot his side into a 9-3 interval and he duly obliged.

England tore into their opponents on the resumption with their large travelling support enlivened when Tait sliced and side-stepped his way through the South African midfield.

The ball was worked out to Cueto on the left flank but despite what looked like a legitimate try on first look, referee Alain Rolland, who became the first Irishman to referee a World Cup final, wisely took the decision to go upstairs.

After quite a delay, TMO Dickinson ruled that the winger had part of his left leg in touch before he dotted down in the corner, however Rolland came immediately back for an infringement earlier in the move and Wilkinson knocked his second penalty through the posts.

In his last Test match, England sadly lost full-back Jason Robinson to a shoulder injury in the 48th-minute and the ‘Boks seized the momentum back when Montgomery thumped his fourth penalty from four attempts through the posts.

The seal was put on the result on 62 minutes when the 20-year-old centre Steyn held his nerve to raise the flags with an excellent penalty strike from 46 metres out.

More than a converted score in front, the South Africans had enough steal in defence to see out a deserved win and spark mass celebrations for their countrymen both home and abroad.

Speaking after the hard-fought final, Jake White said: “It just shows you how tough World Cups are. I always knew we had to play to win it, they were not going to give it to us. I always said defence wins World Cups. “It hasn’t even sunk in yet but to see the president of our country sitting on the players’ shoulders holding the World Cup…it is something to be really proud of.”

England coach Brian Ashton conceded the best team won on the night and went a step further when admitting: “Congratulations to South Africa. They were the best side over the whole tournament.”

The former Ireland boss added: “This World Cup has been a fantastic adventure for us in many ways. I’m extremely proud of my players.”