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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 October 2007, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
England 14-9 France
By James Standley

Jonny Wilkinson (left) is congratulated by Toby Flood after landing his late drop-goal for England
Jonny Wilkinson's kicks ensured England reached the final again
England (5) 14
Try: Lewsey
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop-goals: Wilkinson

France (6) 9
Pens: Beauxis 3

Jonny Wilkinson landed two late kicks as the champions fought back to reach their second World Cup final in a row with a dramatic win over hosts France.

England took a second-minute lead through Josh Lewsey but two Lionel Beauxis penalties put France 6-5 up.

A penalty apiece from Beauxis and Jonny Wilkinson saw France lead 9-8.

Wilkinson hit a post with a drop-goal attempt, but landed a penalty and drop-goal in the last five minutes to stun France and send England through.

The match started in explosive fashion as England took the lead after just 78 seconds.


Andy Gomarsall clipped a box-kick down the line and Damien Traille, usually a centre but playing out of position at full-back, dithered as the ball skittered along near the touchline.

When it popped up Traille momentarily slipped and Lewsey latched onto the ball before blasting over and through the Frenchman to score.

Wilkinson, whose kicking has been below par in France, missed the tricky conversion, with the ball snaking left of the posts as it has done all too often for the England's fly-half's satisfaction all tournament.

It was a stunning start for the champions but France were determined not to lose to England in the semi-finals twice in a row and they tried to hit back by playing with width and pace.

England, who beat Les Bleus 24-7 last time round, repelled a series of attacks before a large slice of luck helped France get on the board.

Beauxis tried a hugely ambitious drop-goal from near his own 10m line which was partly charged down by the towering Simon Shaw.

Josh Lewsey blasts through Damien Traille to open the scoring for England
Josh Lewsey put England into the lead inside the first two minutes

Serge Betsen picked up the loose ball and when England infringed at the ruck, fly-half Beauxis drilled over the penalty to make it 5-3 after seven minutes.

England then conceded a couple of penalties and threw in some mistakes as well to help France build some momentum.

And when the massive Andy Sheridan, so impressive in the quarter-final win against Australia, was penalised for not taking the bind at a scrum, Beauxis edged France into the lead.

With 21-year-old Beauxis missing three long-range drop-goal attempts for the hosts and Wilkinson off target with a similar attempt for England, France were only a point clear at the break.

The hosts edged further ahead after 44 minutes through Beauxis' third penalty after England again infringed at a ruck but the visitors soon hit back through Wilkinson's boot.

Dan Hipkiss, on as a replacement for Lewsey after the Wasps man appeared to pull a hamstring, made a break to initiate a surging attack and when France fell offside Wilkinson landed his 50th World Cup penalty to make it 9-8.

France brought on the mercurial Frederic Michalak with half an hour to go but his first contribution was to miss a drop-goal from right in front of the posts.

England came agonisingly close to going back into the lead after an hour but Wilkinson's right-foot drop-goal came cannoning back off the woodwork.

France winger Vincent Clerc tackles Josh Lewsey into touch
France stopped Lewsey this time but the damage had been done

When France kicked the ball clear Jason Robinson beat four or five blue defenders on an electric run deep into French territory, but he was eventually halted and Phil Vickery was penalised at the resulting ruck to calm French nerves.

The let-off boosted French morale and after taking control territorially it took a tap tackle from replacement flanker Joe Worsley to prevent Vincent Clerc going over, with Sebastien Chabal eventually halted inches short from the winger's pass.

England were struggling to get out of their half but they eventually turned the tide as the match entered the last 10 minutes.

Toby Flood missed with a poor drop-goal attempt for the champions but, when Dimitri Szarzewski was penalised for a high tackle on Robinson, Wilkinson stepped up.

His 75th-minute penalty put England back into the lead and the World Cup-winning hero of 2003 added a drop-goal three minutes later.

The hosts threw everything at the champions in a series of desperate late attacks, but Brian Ashton's side held out to claim the chance to defend their title against either South Africa or Argentina in Paris next Saturday.

England: Robinson; Sackey, Tait, Catt, Lewsey; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery (capt), Shaw, Kay, Corry, Moody, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Flood, Hipkiss.

France: Traille; Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Heymans; Beauxis, Elissalde; Milloud, Ibanez (capt), De Villiers, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Dusautoir, Bonnaire.
Replacements: Poux, Szarzewski, Chabal, Harinordoquy, Michalak, Dominici, Poitrenaud.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

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