A drama enjoyed only after the good guys had won
WORLD CUP COMMENT
Tuesday 13 June 1995
Before the game it took a huge amount of will power to shut out the magnitude of what we were about to take part in. The more experienced members of the squad were able to take it all in their stride. Personally the release of emotion before kick-off, which I had bottled up all week, was so strong that I was close to tears.
The atmosphere in the dressing room was electric but extremely focused. All eyes had that glazed look of a boxer's as he makes for the ring. That intense look of a combatant ready to take to battle.
The game had everything a scriptwriter could ever want in a drama. Like a film, you almost couldn't enjoy it until you got to the end, when the good guys had won. Then you could look back and revel in what you had taken part in as player or viewer.
Despite Michael Lynagh's early penalty goal, the first 30 minutes of the game were all England and the ascendancy our forwards were able to achieve in that period was especially pleasing. Indeed it was similar to how well we played in the first half-hour of our first Test against South Africa last year, except that we were unable to register the same number of points on the board this time.
Australia, helped by working out our lineout calls, then took command for the middle half hour of the game, allowing them to regain the lead. The period thereafter was testimony to just how far this England team have come, as this slack period would have proved the ultimate downfall of most English sides before.
Instead we maintained our composure and the score remained level pegging until the final five minutes. Crucially, we kept our form and discipline in that period, so that a prolonged period spent inside our half did not produce a penalty and kicking opportunity for them. A penalty won, a great line kick from Mike Catt, a two-handed catch from Martin Bayfield, a 10- yard drive from the forwards and the sweetest right foot Barnard Castle School has ever produced made history.
To have taken part in such an occasion was enough in itself, to score a try as well was something I could only dream about. The one thing I can clearly remember about it was just how long it seemed to take to get there. Furthermore I only thought I was definitely going to make it was when I actually made it. Infuriatingly, when I did put the ball down there was Jeremy Guscott looking as if he'd been jogging to keep up.
The world champions vanquished, our reward is a semi-final berth against the only other country to hold that title, New Zealand. They have been the form team throughout this championship despite a precarious build-up to the World Cup. Having put ourselves in this wonderful position, a loss on Sunday would be a disappointment which we would rather not contemplate.
Contemplation at present centres around the rather magnificent, if somewhat over the top, edifice of Sun City. Relaxation is the order of the day, all minds off rugby before we return to Johannesburg tomorrow.
Incidentally, do you know who Jonah Lomu is? Everyone keeps asking me what I think about him.
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