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BOKS FOILED AS WILKO SEALS WIN; More glory for England stars.

Byline: Andrew Baldock

ENGLAND 25

S'TH AFRICA 17

JONNY Wilkinson returned to torment South Africa with another goal-kicking master-class as England recorded their second successive victory over the Springboks.

The Newcastle fly-half, who booted all 27 points when England triumphed in Bloemfontein last summer, slotted another 20 this time, from six penalties and a conversion of Will Greenwood's 34th-minute try, not once missing the target.

Wilkinson's opposite number, Braam van Straaten, scored a try and kicked four penalties but South Africa never recovered from the 19-9 interval deficit.

England played a large chunk of the first half minus flankers Richard Hill and Neil Back - both off for treatment to blood injuries - yet their resolve and commitment proved irresistible.

They recorded back-to-back victories over South Africa in the same year for the first time, adding to the scalps of world champions Australia and World Cup quarter-finalists Argentina ealier this month.

Encouragement

They were suitably roared on by a capacity Twickenham crowd, who revelled in the fact that England are now stringing consistent winning results together against the world's top teams.

England made a promising start, keeping ball in hand as opposed to seeking physical contact, with hooker Phil Greening predictably a prominent mid-field force.

Wilkinson retrieved a worrying situation by turning defence into attack on four minutes, weaving his way through several attempted Springbok tackles and giving South Africa food for thought.

A seventh-minute Wilkinson penalty put England ahead but van Straaten levelled it barely 60 seconds later when the home forwards fell offside at a ruck, and the expected goal-kicking duel had materialised.

Setbacks

Wilkinson's next strike came on 13 minutes when veteran Springbok lock Mark Andrews was punished for illegally using his shoulder.

The Twickenham surface had barely recovered from last Saturday's rain-lashed visit of Argentina, but a cut-up pitch was the least of England's worries.

Back went off nursing a wound and Hill departed with another cut.

Reserve hooker Mark Regan took the field, Greening moving into the back row, and van Straaten's second equalising penalty threatened a Springboks onslaught.

England, though, showed their mettle, making light of a serious double setback to unleash dangerous right wing Ben Cohen.

The Northampton man relished such a physical confrontation and, after he had made headway, Wilkinson completed his penalty hat-trick from short range.

Springboks' centre Japie Mulder became the game's third blood casualty - Grant Esterhuizen taking his place - and Cardiff's former centre made a first contribution by plunging knee-first into a ruck.

Back reappeared in the 34th minute and England immediately prospered.

The ball found its way to Wilkinson and his incisive short pass sent Greenwood shooting through on an irresistible angle.

It was Greenwood's eighth touchdown in 17 Tests and the inevitable Wilkinson conversion gave England breathing space before van Straaten slotted a third penalty, reducing South African arrears to 16-9.

Wilkinson was not to be outdone, landing a fourth penalty from in front of the Springbok posts to give England a 10 point lead at the interval.

Danger

Hill also returned after half-time, while England replaced Greening with Regan and sent on Gloucester prop Phil Vickery for Julian White.

But South Africa made a major impact within five minutes, Straaten powering over from 25 metres.

Although he could not land the touchline conversion attempt, England were suddenly on the back foot.

Captain Martin Johnson knocked on and full-back Matt Perry rapidly followed suit, committing a basic blunder inside his own 22, allowing South Africa to probe further attacking in-roads.

Wilkinson relieved the pressure, sending a telling grubber kick deep into South Africa's half, but both sides had developed an understandably cautious approach.

With just five points separating the teams, neither was prepared to give an inch and mistakes began creeping in.

Van Straaten sent a kick straight into touch from outside his 22, allowing England, who now had Greening back on for Regan, an attacking platform.

When Springboks flanker Corne Krige fell offside, Wilkinson preserved his 100 per cent strike-rate by landing an angled fifth penalty to send England ahead 22-14.

South Africa, having lost the second Test against England in Bloemfontein last summer, were hell-bent on avoiding a repetition and soon gained a territorial foothold.

Greening was penalised for a late challenge on Springboks scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen and van Straaten's successful penalty brushed a post in going over.

England could not relax but Wilkinson's sixth penalty, with five minutes remaining, restored a priceless eight-point advantage.

South Africa saw van der Westerhuizen depart the arena and realistically knew that their chances of avenging Bloemfontein had gone.

England had accomplished their mission with successive autumn Test wins against Australia, Argentina and South Africa.

CAPTION(S):

OUT OF REACH... South African Joost Van Der Westhuizen attempts to halt the run of England hero Jonny Wilkinson TWO EASY... England try-scorer Will Greenwood celebrates at Twickenham
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Title Annotation:Rugby Union
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2000
Words:806
Previous Article:CAMERON AT THE DOUBLE; Banks's League.
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