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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:56 GMT
From jitters to jubilation

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport in Sydney

England fans celebrate in the Telstra Stadium
England's hero had delivered when it mattered most, and the Barmy Army were delirious in their appreciation.

"Oh Jonny Jonny, Jonny Jonny Jonny Jonny Wilkinson."

According to the Telstra Stadium clock, there were still 26 seconds left when Wilkinson took Matt Dawson's pass and calmly dropped the goal that clinched the World Cup.

But the excitement of the moment struck even this coolest of customers and he leapt into Mike Catt's embrace. He knew, and we knew.

When Catt hoofed Australia's re-start into touch, England's players held their arms aloft, begging Andre Watson to signal the end.

The South African referee obliged, bringing the unbearable tension to an end, and the relief flooded out.

Soon afterwards, the words every red rose supporter had been waiting to hear echoed around Sydney's Telstra Stadium.

"I now call on Martin Johnson to be presented with the Webb Ellis Cup for world champions England!"

It was 10.44pm local time by the time the medal presentations were completed and Johnson stepped forward to receive rugby's greatest prize.

All anyone could do was keep shaking their heads in disbelief, stunned at the conclusion to a riveting World Cup final
The biggest cheer, unsurprisingly, was saved for Wilkinson, who by that stage could not stop smiling.

Not far behind was the roar for Clive Woodward. As he bent down to receive his medal, the thought occurred that next time it could be in front of the Queen.

Arise Sir Clive? Certainly the England fans thought so.

The tone was set early. As our train pulled into Olympic Park station, someone stood up and shouted: "Twickenham, everybody off!"

The Barmy Army had already claimed a decisive victory in the first battle, taunting Australian fans with chants of, "You're supposed to be at home."

And once inside the stadium complex, it could have been that corner of south-west London for the second time in six days.

Sydney's weather again contrived to make England feel at home and the showers that fell across the city earlier in the day returned before kick-off.

The flags of St George were out in force, one bearing this message for England's biggest critic: "Campese U woman, Iron my Undies!"

But another summed up the prevailing mood: 'England expects'.

The first strains of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' floated across the stadium 40 minutes before kick-off.

An Australian fan is comforted by an England fan in Sydney
England fans get one up on their old rivals
But despite reappearing at regular intervals during the match, it did not get its full triumphant rendition until the very end, such was the anxiety and tension.

Victory assured, Neil Back plucked his four-year-old daughter from the crowd to join in the celebrations.

Martin Johnson had a special hug for Wilkinson, and Phil Vickery gulped greedily from a giant bottle of Heineken as he led the lap of honour.

All anyone else could do was keep shaking their heads in disbelief, stunned at the conclusion to a riveting World Cup final.

Even veteran journalists sang along lustily to the string of Beatles numbers reverberating around the stadium.

"A Hard Day's Night" was certainly appropriate. What a match. What a finale. Deep breath everyone.



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