Who'd have thought it? Wallabies shattered by World Cup exit
World Cup exit ... George Gregan and the rest of the Wallabies reflect on what might have been after Australia's 12-10 defeat to England (AFP: Pascal Guyot)
Wallabies coach John Connolly admitted his side left their worst performance until last, following their 12-10 World Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of England in Marseille this morning (Australian time).
The Wallabies slumped to the ground in disbelief after failing to handle the unrelenting England pressure in the tense clash.
It was a bitter international farewell for record-capped half-back George Gregan, in his 139th Test match, and also for his long-time team-mate, 102-capped Stephen Larkham, who missed the match with a knee injury.
More acute for the Wallabies was that for the third time in tournament history it was bitter rivals England who were their World Cup executioner.
Rob Andrew's drop goal dumped them out in the quarter-finals of the 1995 World Cup in South Africa and Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal won England the 2003 final in extra-time in Sydney.
This time the Australians were rattled by resurgent England, flustered into error and failed to find any attacking flow, despite scoring the only try of the match through winger Lote Tuqiri.'Worst performance'
"It was our worst performance. England controlled the breakdown very strongly and from that we never got any momentum. Our game never got off the ground," said Connolly, who also coached his last match for the Wallabies.
"At no stage did we control the breakdown in any shape or form, we were always on the back-foot, when we did get on the front foot we were dangerous, but we were flustered and we lost a fair bit of composure and made uncharacteristic errors, things we pride ourselves on not doing."
Captain Stirling Mortlock was particularly crestfallen for his long-time team-mates Gregan and Larkham to bow out of the World Cup on a losing note.
"I think that Stephen and George have given so much, not just to Australian rugby, but to world rugby. For them to bow out in the quarter-final, as well as everyone involved in our team, is extremely disappointing," he said.
"It's an extremely quiet, dull dressing room at the moment. They're extremely disappointed with the way we played today. But credit goes to England with their breakdown. We didn't get any rhythm."
Mortlock was dismayed with missing three of his four penalty attempts, one a last-ditch 47-metre effort two minutes from full-time which went wide.
"Personally, obviously goal-kicking-wise, I'm very disappointed. I should've kicked them," he said.
- AFPhttp://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/07/2052791.htmand...All Blacks follow Wallabies out of World Cup
World Cup hosts France produced a stunning second-half fight-back to beat New Zealand 20-18 in their World Cup quarter-final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this morning (Australian time).
For the All Blacks, 13-0 up as early as the 30th minute, defeat was arguably as devastating as their equally unexpected 43-31 loss to France in the 1999 World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.
France now face old rivals England - who earlier this morning (Australian time) inflicted more misery on the southern hemisphere by beating Australia - in next Sunday morning's (Australian time) semi-final at the Stade de France in St Denis.
"Bravo to all the players," said France coach Bernard Laporte.
"After losing the first match to Argentina, we suffered a lot of things but tonight the response was there. We beat a great team and we want to go further."
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said he could not explain the defeat.
"I'm lost for words. With France we always knew they could come back in the second half. We lost our composure. I thought we could get it back," he said.
"We believed we had what it takes. In the first half, they forced us to play aerial ping-pong. We didn't want to play like that. It's a day you try to forget."
The French did not go ahead until 11 minutes from time courtesy of a try from centre Yannick Jauzion, which owed much to replacement fly half Frederic Michalak.
Flanker Thierry Dusautoir's try had earlier drawn France level with novice fly half Lionel Beauxis kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Half-back Jean-Baptiste Elissalde's conversion of Jauzion's try made it 20-18 heading into the final minutes.
In the last minute, New Zealand full-back Leon MacDonald missed a field goal attempt, which would have won the match for the All Blacks and France were left to celebrate a famous victory.
New Zealand saw Luke McAlister and Rodney So'oialo both score tries with fly half Dan Carter's boot adding the remaining eight points through a conversion and two penalties.Early setback
France suffered a setback in the fifth minute when flanker Serge Betsen fell awkwardly after tackling All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko and was left flat out on the turf.
Betsen, after several minutes of treatment, walked off the pitch with and was replaced by Imanol Harinordoquy.
Laporte had given a first Test start at full-back to Damien Traille and opted for Beauxis at fly half over Michalak, the clear intention to kick for territory and then use their line-out to regain the ball.
But McAlister, in a foretaste of what was to come, then evaded the French defence after following up his own chip ahead.
His move eventually set up a ruck deep inside the French 22 where recalled former France captain Fabien Pelous was penalised for not rolling away.
Carter's resulting 13th-minute penalty put the All Blacks 3-0 ahead.
Then McAlister again scythed his way through France's midfield and found half-back Byron Kelleher.
The ball was worked left with number eight Rodney So'oialo passing to Ali Williams, out on the touchline where winger Vincent Clerc did just enough to force the lock into touch before he put the ball down although it needed the video referee to make the call.
However, France's reprieve was short-lived. Fly half Carter released McAlister who again burst through to find Jerry Collins, whose return pass set up a 17th-minute try for McAlister.
Carter converted and the All Blacks were 10-0 ahead.
Beauxis then missed a 24th-minute penalty before Carter, maintaining his perfect strike-rate, knocked over one himself from 48 metres to extend New Zealand's lead.
Elissalde also failed with his first penalty attempt from out on the right, before Beauxis made amends for his earlier miss on the stroke of half-time to leave New Zealand 13-3 ahead.
Beauxis scored the first points of the second half, with a penalty after a deliberate obstruction by McAlister on Jauzion saw the All Black sent to the sin-bin by English referee Wayne Barnes.
France drew level in the 54th minute with a well-worked try.
The charging Harinordoquy was held up just short of the line but France retained possession and Clerc's well-timed pass released openside Dusautoir who went over on the right hand side.
Beauxis converted and the match was tied at 13-13.
France's forwards then enjoyed a purple patch but New Zealand, having been initially taken aback, weathered the storm and saw So'oialo burrow his way over for a try confirmed by video referee Chris White.
But Carter's missed conversion meant that, at 18-13 ahead, New Zealand still had plenty of work to do heading into the final quarter.
Laporte, with 13 minutes left, played his trump card by sending on the gifted, but erratic Michalak for Beauxis.
It was a move that paid dividends barely two minutes later. Traille broke clear before finding Michalak, taking the ball at pace, who in turn released Jauzion for a well-worked try.
- AFP/Reuters http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/07/2052792.htm