South Africa tops defending champion England 15-6 in Rugby World Cup final

Updated: October 20, 2007, 6:41 PM ET
Associated Press

SAINT-DENIS, France -- South Africa won its second Rugby World Cup by beating defending champion England 15-6 Saturday in a final where all the points came on penalty kicks.

Percy Montgomery was 4-for-4 on kicks for South Africa, Francois Steyn added another, and Jonny Wilkinson had two for Britain.

"I'm sitting here and trying not to cry," Springboks captain John Smit said. "It's a feeling you can't put into words. It's a reward for four years of dedication and hard work. England gave us a good run. But we responded well to their technical kicking."

Wilkinson kicked England to victory in the 2003 final in Sydney, but didn't receive enough chances at Stade de France.

The Springboks also kicked for all their points in their previous championship, on home soil in 1995.

South Africa, which went unbeaten and averaged almost 44 points in six wins to reach the final, had demolished England 36-0 in pool play 36 days beforehand. Though the English looked much better Saturday, they never appeared close to becoming the first champion to retain the William Webb Ellis Cup.

England handed South Africa the first penalty shot after seven minutes when center Mathew Tait slipped inside his 22 and wouldn't release the ball. Montgomery, who was also perfect at goalkicks at Stade de France against England in pool play and Argentina in the semifinal, sent the ball between the posts.

Wilkinson responded in the 13th minute after the Springboks' Bryan Habana drew a penalty for laying on Paul Sackey after a tackle.

Montgomery restored South Africa's lead three minutes later with a 30-meter penalty after Lewis Moody tripped Butch James.

Montgomery's third kick made it 9-3.

England appeared to have drawn within 9-8 in the second minute of the new half, but Mark Cueto was judged to have slid on his try and it was disallowed.

"We generally have a good feeling straight away when you think you've scored a try," Cueto said. "I though it was a legitimate try."

England still got a penalty kick and Wilkinson nailed it to close the margin to three.

It was back to six when Martin Corry drew a hand penalty in the ruck, and Montgomery made the kick from 25 meters.

Montgomery, chasing a ball going out of the in-goal area, was unnecessarily pushed from behind by Toby Flood.

Steyn hit the 46-meter penalty to make it 15-6 entering the last quarter and England couldn't crack South Africa's defense.

"South Africa deserved to win -- they've been fantastic all tournament," Wilkinson said. "It's disappointing for us, we gave it the best we had, and at times we got close enough and we didn't feel we were going to lose."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press