England team’s unique ability to inspire universal joy when they lose gives a boost to other sides heading home from the Rugby World Cup.
|A late penalty by James O’Connor regained the lead on 71 minutes for Australia [GALLO/GETTY]|
Australia knocked defending champions South Africa out of the rugby World Cup when they edged the Springboks 11-9 in a bruising but undistinguished quarter-final at the Wellington Rugby Stadium on Sunday.
South Africa, fielding their most experienced side ever, dominated possession but could not score a single try against the twice champions in a match riddled with basic kicking and handling errors.
Australia lost five lineouts and one scrum, conceded 76 of the territory and were forced to make 147 tackles to South Africa’s 53 but still the Springboks could not cross their line.
“We knew that defence wins these big games and our discipline was really good,” Australia captain James Horwill said in a pitchside interview.
“We had some real issues clearing the ball in the second half and they put us under a lot of pressure.”
Horwill scored the only try of the match in the 12th minute to help the Wallabies to an 8-3 lead at halftime.
South Africa flyhalf Morne Steyn replied with a penalty and drop goal in the second half to put the two-time winners ahead before James O’Connor kicked the winning penalty after a lineout infringement with eight minutes remaining.
The Springboks’ physical strength was graphically revealed in two early scrums when they forced the Wallabies to retreat.
They also stole an Australian lineout but in neither case were they able to translate power into points.
Instead it was Australia who opened the scoring when South Africa won a lineout near their line and loose forward Schalk Burger lost the ball in midfield.
Wallaby number eight Radike Samo snapped it up and fed centre Pat McCabe, who passed to Horwill and the big lock strode through a gap to score. O’Connor, possibly distracted by an early charge from JP Pietersen, missed a regulation conversion.
Fullback Kurtley Beale set up Australia’s next points with an electrifying break through the centre. Australia won a penalty and O’Connor made no mistake this time with a simple kick to the right of the posts.
Steyn failed with two ambitious long-range kicks, which his injured namesake Francois might have nailed, but succeeded with an easier attempt in between the misses before halftime.
South Africa went on the attack after the break and fullback Pat Lambie crossed the line for an apparent try but New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence called the teams back for a forward pass by centre Jean de Villiers.
Steyn narrowed the margin with a comfortable penalty then snapped a drop goal over five minutes later to give his side the lead for the first time.
Australia were pinned in their own half and the errors multiplied with both sides persistently relinquishing possession.
However, the Wallabies broke out and won a lineout penalty when lock Danie Rossouw took Sano’s feet from under him and O’Connor slotted the kick.
Australia won two scrums, the final one in the last minute, and scrumhalf Will Genia kicked the ball jubilantly into touch.