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Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 16:24 GMT
Wilkinson boots England past Boks
Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson scored seven penalties on Saturday
England 29-9 South Africa

England rallied after a scrappy first half to take a commanding victory over the Springboks on Saturday afternoon.

The fabulous boot of fly-half Jonny Wilkinson led the home side to their third successive win over South Africa, having scored triumphs at Bloemfontein and Twickenham last year.

The clash always promised to be a bruising affair and neither team disappointed in that respect.

But it was not until the second half that England showed the confidence and fluidity they are so capable of.


We never created enough passes to disrupt their defence, but our own backline was fantastic
Martin Johnson
England captain
Wilkinson scored seven penalties, Mike Catt got a drop goal and Dan Luger scored a try in injury time to give England an impressive victory over the 1995 world champions.

But England captain Martin Johnson said the scoreline flattered his side and that they did not perform as well as they were hoping.

"We never seemed to get going. It was a funny game, but we kept plugging away with Jonny's kicks to get us clear," he said.

"They competed very well. They stole a lot of line-out ball and turned over some rucks.

"We never created enough passes to disrupt their defence, but our own backline was fantastic."

South Africa's kicker Braam van Straaten had the chance to open the scoring three minutes in, but saw his powerful effort from halfway go wide.

Wilkinson did not make the same mistake and managed to put England ahead 3-0 after just six minutes with shaky opening kick.

But the home side's lack of cohesion in the first half meant they were unable to widen the gap.

It was a stop-start clash with too many penalties conceded by England, who failed to break down the strong South African defence.

  Match facts
Tries:
England: Luger
Penalties:
England: Wilkinson (7)
South Africa: van Straaten (3)
Drop goals:
England: Catt
However, the longest wait for the two sides came when referee Stuart Dickinson had to be replaced by Ireland's David McHugh after pulling his calf on 10 minutes.

The rest of the half remained dour with Wilkinson twice more restoring England's lead when Van Straaten managed to level the score with two penalties of his own.

England had plenty to think about as they went into the break with a slim 9-3 lead.

After early pressure from South Africa in the second half, the home side started to pull together.

In the 45th minute, solid work from Dean Hall and Joe Worsley nearly paid off before Bracken was held up on the South Africa try line.

Two minutes later, England again went close, but Conrad Jantjes managed to shepherd Will Greenwood into touch at the left-hand corner after a set move in the backs.

It was up to Wilkinson to give England the cushion they so desperately needed, which he did with two quick penalties.

Dan Luger
Dan Luger scored a late try for England
Catt stretched the gap to 18-9 with his opportunistic drop kick in a performance worlds apart from the first half.

South Africa continued to make few attacking moves and it was up to Van Straaten's kicking to try to put the pressure on England.

But while his two efforts missed, Wilkinson was again on target with two more penalties.

The Springboks looked as though they had scored a late consolation try when Victor Matfield burrowed across the line in the 81st minute.

But they were denied by the tenacity of Kyran Bracken, who managed to dive beneath the large second row.

Instead, England grabbed one more opportunity to pile on the misery for South Africa when Dan Luger surged up the field to put the ball over the line in the dying moments of the game.

Wilkinson missed the subsequent conversion, but, by then, he had already earned his accolade as man of the match.


Teams:

England: Robinson, Healey, Greenwood, Catt, Luger, Wilkinson, Bracken, Rowntree, West, Vickery, Johnson, Grewcock, Hill, Back, Worsley.
Replacements: Regan, Leonard, Kay, Moody, Hodgson, Tindall, Cohen.

South Africa: Jantjes, Paulse, Halstead, van Straaten, Hall, Koen, van der Westhuizen, Le Roux, Smit, Meyer, Matfield, Andrews, Vos, A. Venter, Skinstad.
Replacements: van Biljon, Visagie, A. Venter, Krige, D. de Kock, Snyman, Montgomery.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC rugby union correspondent Ian Robertson
"This was a very good day for English rugby"
England coach Clive Woodward
"That's the toughest game I've been involved in"
England's Dan Luger
"It was a good team performance"
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