2007 France

2010-10-25 20:56
The Springboks celebrate with president Thabo Mbeki. (AP)

The 2007 World Cup was a mixture of great matches, odd results and ultimately, a justified winner. Played in front of capacity crowds in France, with some matches held in Scotland and Wales, it was a memorable event. The eight quarter-finalists from 2003  were granted automatic qualification, while 12 other nations gained entry through the regional qualifying competitions that began in 2004 - of them, Portugal was the only World Cup debutant.

The tournament kicked off with a  shock result in Paris, with Argentina causing a huge upset by beating France 17-12 at the Stade de France, handing the host nation their first ever defeat in the pool stages. This result was almost upstaged by Tonga, who very nearly beat tournament favourites South Africa, who managed to cling on to beat the South Sea nation by only 30-25. A nation that would have wanted to put on a better display, but who just couldn't seem to get going was defending champions England, who were thrashed 36-0 by South Africa in the group stages.

From there on in, though, results became more normal, with the quarter-finals seeing England regain their form to triumph 12-10 over arch-rivals Australia, New Zealand undone by France at this stage for a second time, the Springboks winning convincingly 37-20 over Fiji, and Scotland losing to Argentina.

In the semi-finals, South Africa breezed past an improving but not quite good enough Argentina, scoring 37 points to the South American's 13, whilst the English continued their run of hard-fought wins by ousting hosts France by 14 points to 9.

Champions: South Africa ended England's reign as world champions as they claimed the World Cup for the second time. Three Percy Montgomery penalties to one from Jonny Wilkinson saw South Africa, who had hammered England in the group stages, lead 9-3 at the break in Paris. England went desperately close to a try through Mark Cueto soon after half-time before a penalty apiece made it 12-6. Francois Steyn extended South Africa's lead with a long-range penalty, taking his team to 15 points, which in the end was enough, as South Africa held out to match their 1995 triumph.

Tournament Star
Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery, whose 105 points and tactical brilliance kept opposition running to all parts of the park in defence. Notable performances came from another Springbok – winger Bryan Habana, famous for sprinting against cheetahs, scored 8 tries in the tournament, equalling the record of Jonah Lomu for most tries in a single World Cup.

Notable moments
During the final, although the Springboks were leading, it seemed at one point that there might be a momentum shift. During this period, England winger Mark Cueto became memorable when he was denied a try in the second half of the match by Australian television match official Stuart Dickinson. After a great deal of deliberation over real-time footage (and facing a language barrier with a French television producer who did not provide the stills he wanted) Dickinson disallowed the try on the basis of Cueto's left foot entering touch before the ball was grounded. This was not immediately obvious and Cueto's left leg was subsequently raised within the boundary of play, travelling over it after the ball was on the ground; this led many to believe the judgement had been wrongly made on the basis of the latter movement. A division of opinion still exists.


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