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COME ON ENGLAND

15-10-2007

Terry Wills reflects on a barnstorming weekend of sporting action, which climaxed in a fantastic performance by England's rugby union players.

Saturday and with no Baggies match to worry about it was time to ask the question. What do I do to occupy my time? OK, I know the lawn needs mowing but that can wait.

Especially with the surfeit of goggle box sport. There was as England hosting Estonia at Wembley in a must win European Championship Group qualifying game.

Then the Rugby League Play Off Final at Old Trafford with the reigning champions St Helens taking on Leeds. (still can't understand just how on earth these players manage to kick such a funny shaped ball!)

Finally, the pick of the action, another game played with the funny shaped ball - France hosting reigning Rugby Union World Champions England in a Paris semi-final. And I couldn't see the Lions winning that game.

Add to these the last Speedway Grand Prix Final of the season from Sweden, golf, American Football, snooker and darts.

I didn't look any further but if I had I wouldn't have been in the least surprised to have discovered Clay Pigeon shooting was being transmitted on some obscure station or other!

So time to 'dig out' my England scarf and Cap. Make oneself comfortable and sit back waiting and wondering to see if Steve McLaren' s outfit could somehow manage to foul up against mighty Estonia.

Mercifully they didn't and with the result determined in the first 30 minutes it was 'nodding off' time and judging by the after match comments from Messrs Hansen, Lineker, and Wright, all admitting the second half had been 'flat', it meant my periodic dozes had been best the option.

Congratulations lads, especially Gareth Barry, but I can't help thinking it'll be a trifle harder in Russia on Wednesday!

Over to Old Trafford to see and HEAR passionate Rugby League fans roaring on their respective teams on.

What a difference to the usual fare in the "Theatre of Dreams". For once it was full of genuine, locally-based supporters from Leeds and St Helens giving their respective teams passionate backing. The caterers who usually deliver prawn sandwiches must have been grateful for the day off!

Leeds ran out the winners meaning the 'Saints' hopes of pulling off a second successive Treble had been dashed.

But now it was time for THE 'Match of the Day' despite it being a 9 00 Clock kick off in Paris.

With the strains of 'Jerusalem countered by La Marseillaise, wow, what an atmosphere. And that was before a ball had been kicked in anger.

Two minutes in, and miraculously England opened the scoring with their first try of the tournament!

Sheer delight and time to throw cap in air, cheer loud enough to scare the daylights of the cat and have wife Dot running in from the kitchen wondering what the hell had happened!

"We're winning-we're winning!!!

Naturally the pattern of the game had to change - remember it's England we're talking about - and before half-time two penalty conversions gave the hosts the lead.

"Damn, blast" I muttered and when another penalty stretched their advantage to 9-5 I was convinced the thousands of English supporters weren't going to enjoy a celebratory night out in and around the floodlit Eiffel Tower.

Enter 'Mr Magic' Johnny Wilkinson, who hadn't been enjoyed the best of games, and as his slight frame was met by as series of ferocious crunching, tackles, wife Dot who had settled down to watch said "This looks a rough game. Look at the size of some of the players. They must be mad!"

Another England penalty and as Wilkinson reduced the deficit to a single point the strains of Jerusalem ringing around the Stade de France were being accompanied by yours truly screeching at the telly "Come on England you can still do it"

More hysteria. Another penalty conversion from a rejuvenated Wilkinson and the Lions were ahead 11-9.

Was this REALLY happening? "Come on England. Defend for your lives. Come on. Come on"

By now cat 'Heidi' had heard enough! Time to wander out of the room to seek a bit of peace and quiet upstairs away from the increasing bedlam. .

Then THE defining moment and with memories of that historic dropped goal that won England the World Cup in Australia in 2003, lurking in the back of the mind, he did it again.

Out came the ball. The commentator's voices sharpened, "It's back to Wilkinson. He's lining it up. There it goes it's on it way. It's there. He's scored Has he kicked England to an another historic victory? (Or words to that effect)

Cap hit the ceiling, scarf whirled around as I 'roared' "Come on England. Keep em out, keep em out"

With the knowledge that a 14-9 deficit meant they now needed a try AND a conversion to reach the final France threw everything at the defiant 'bruised' English team.

Wave after wave, after wave of attacks were repulsed by VERY brave defending. "Blow your whistle ref. Blow it. Time's up"

At last he 'heard' me, along I suppose, with the thousands of ecstatic English supporters who'd been lucky enough to see their 'Dads Army' defy the odds to reach their second successive World Final.

Dancing around the room in sheer delight I STILL couldn't believe it. I'm no great devotee of rugby as opposed to football but when it comes to supporting England in any capacity I'm a true patriot.

But now the win has been consigned to the history books and next week in the Final, against South Africa, it's a fair bet they'll again be massive underdogs.

Can they do it? I somehow doubt it but then if they've managed to defy the odds once why can't they do it again?

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