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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 October, 2003, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
England down battling Boks
England 25-6 South Africa

England centre Will Greenwood celebrates his try
England 25 (6)
Try: Greenwood
Con: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson (4)
Drops: Wilkinson (2)
South Africa: 6 (6)
Pens: Koen (2)

England took a giant step on their preferred path to the World Cup knock-out stages with a tense victory over South Africa in Perth.

Martin Johnson's men were far from their fluent best against a Springboks side that gave them a torrid test for an hour.

But a crucial try from centre Will Greenwood took England 19-6 clear and they held their nerve in the final quarter to preserve their Cup prospects.

Although two pool matches against Samoa and Uruguay remain, victories in those two will give England a likely quarter-final against Wales or Italy.

For the vanquished Springboks, a probable quarter-final against tournament favourites New Zealand beckons.

It might have been different had South African fly-half Louis Koen brought his kicking boots, four missed penalties in the first half costing his side dear.

It was a huge contest and I am relieved to have won
England coach Clive Woodward
The teams were locked together at 6-6 at half-time and England led only 12-6 after an hour, courtesy of four Jonny Wilkinson penalties.

But the crucial moment arrived after 63 minutes when flanker Lewis Moody charged down a clearing kick from Koen.

The alert Greenwood pounced to kick ahead and touch down to the relief and delight of England players and fans.

Wilkinson embellished the victory with two drop goals in the final 17 minutes to complete a 20-point personal haul.

But the efficiency and composure that have marked England's rise to the top of the world rankings was conspicuous by its absence for long periods.

They only visited South Africa's 22 on one occasion in the first half as the Springboks pack cranked up the pressure.

Wilkinson put a penalty on the board to settle early nerves, and England started brightly as they probed for weaknesses in the Springboks defence.

Mike Tindall is denied a try by Joe van Niekerk's tackle
Tindall was denied in the first half
They almost broke through in the 11th minute after a break from Jason Robinson, only for Joe van Niekerk's try-saving tackle to deny Mike Tindall in the left corner.

Instead, South Africa drew level after a barnstorming break from number eight Juan Smith, Koen on target with his first kick at goal after Trevor Woodman conceded a penalty.

His second two minutes later, from halfway, dropped under the posts to England's relief as they struggled to build any momentum.

Their frustration was evident as they lost the ball in contact and Wilkinson sent a kick straight out on the full.

But England's record points scorer made amends with a second penalty after Springboks captain Corne Krige failed to bind properly at a scrum.

We want to apologise to the people back home
SA captain Corne Krige
Koen had three opportunities in quick succession to bring South Africa level as England uncharacteristically conceded a series of penalties.

The stand-off's first attempt bounced back off the crossbar, but he pulled his next two badly, the second after Greenwood inexplicably forgot to touch the ball down behind the line.

Koen did land a shorter-range effort a minute before the interval, but the game remained an anxious affair.

England regained some composure on the resumption, the Springboks twice falling offside to allow Wilkinson to land two further penalties for a 12-6 lead.

But it was only after Greenwood's decisive try that Clive Woodward's side relaxed, their renowned defensive resilience and Wilkinson's reliable boot seeing them home.

England: J Lewsey; J Robinson, W Greenwood, M Tindall , B Cohen; J Wilkinson, K Bracken; T Woodman, S Thompson, P Vickery, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, L Moody, N Back, L Dallaglio.
Replacements: D West, J Leonard, M Corry, J Worsley, A Gomarsall, P Grayson, DLuger.

South Africa: J v d Westhuyzen; A Willemse, J Muller, D W Barry, T Delport; L Koen, J v d Westhuizen; C Bezuidenhout, D Coetzee, R Bands, B Botha, V Matfield, C Krige (capt), J v Niekerk, J Smith.
Replacements: J Smit, L Sephaka, S Boome, D Rossouw, N De Kock, D Hougaard, W Greeff.

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