18th October 2003
Subiaco Oval, Perth
Half time SA 6 - 6 England
Full time SA 6 - 25 England
Ref: P Marshall (Australia)
Why was my first reaction to the game one of relief? Actually the relief set in at about 62nd minute but all the same - it was hardly an easy game to win. Should it have been? This is SA... you know the team; when they arenít getting worked over by the ABís/England/Australia are struggling to put away Scotland? We won but it just didnít feel good.
Dallaglio (lets start with a strong point) was great. Really classy backrow forward. Back tackled lots but isnt as good as Hill and wont improve as much as Moody. He gave away too many penalties. Moody will improve and has boundless energy but must secure the ball better. Also naive when sprinting out of line in defence lucky not to have been punished more severely for tackling the man off the ball. Should have played Worsley earlier.
The seconds were good and rangy. Johnson, as always, aggressive at the coal front. But given the penalties the SA front row conceded I suspect that it was a lack of 2nd row power that let SA put England under pressure in the scrum. Front row under-performed in the loose, stretched in the scrum - but no-one except France will come close to pushing them that hard.
These guys were fairly well matched in many areas - which wont bother many other teams. Cohen/Delport both had moments of powerful running and hit some hard tackles (though I donít know what that jab in the back of the neck thing Cohen tried out was) but lacked real pace or imagination. They seem to play like flankers not wingers and never looked like creating anything. They smacked of nervous bad decision making. Cohen:- trying to stand Willemse up instead of using his strength to go under the man and then stood off sheparding which almost led to a Bakkies Botha try.
It was the sort of tense match where good players look meek and great players take chances. But there werenít any truly great players on the pitch. Wilko and Greenwood the two classiest players in the English backline looked really good. Greenwood has so much intelligence in his play and despite his diminutive frame made good yards and good tackles. Wilkoís deadball boot and drop goals won the game. But both made mistakes, Greenwoodís bid for dumbest moment of the RWC was incredible and almost cost the game. Wilko - not for the first time- looked edgey kicking the ball from hand.
The other backs: Kyran Bracken was indifferent, excellent sniping in defence, crappy service at times. Tindall was out of step in defence. Lewsey was out of step in attack. Only Robinson seemed to actually enjoy himself and play up to the situation.
Ref: No agro on display but then there was never any real sign of its liklihood. Does inconsistent with both teams mean overall consistent?
Am I too caught up in this whole England drive for perfection? Maybe - the Boks played with heart but it wasnít classic rugby. Then again who cares the Boks played as well as they have in ages. It was a great advert for that sort of scrappy tight god forsaken game S12 seems so keen to banish.
It was a cracker. Well done SA. Well done England. Will the ABís have faced as stern a test as this come the knock out stages?
"If we can win and not play that well it stands us in good stead." J. Lewsey