| The England team with the Webb Ellis Cup after winning the rugby World Cup final in Sydney on Saturday. (AFP)
Sydney, Nov. 22 (AFP): England became the first northern hemisphere side to win the rugby World Cup after a last-gasp Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal in extra-time sunk Australia 20-17 in a thrilling final here on Saturday.
Wilkinson struck a fantastic right-footed drop goal in the final minute of extra-time to settle a titanic clash between the two bitter sporting rivals and leave the Wallabies heartbroken after a supreme effort.
Wilkinson finished with 15 points from the boot but England almost came a cropper after a magnificent display from Australia, the defending champions, roared on by a record 82,957 crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
Elton Flatley had forced the match into extra-time with a dramatic last-second penalty after England had dominated the second half but failed to land the knockout blow. Wilkinson restored Englandís lead with a penalty in the opening 10-minute period of extra-time but Flatley again levelled for Australia after England skipper Martin Johnson infringed. The leveller could have sapped the will from England, but they swept back up from the restart and recycled to engineer Wilkinson into position.
The 24-year-old player of the year, who had failed with several attempted drop-kicks earlier in the match, made no mistake with a right-footed shot that sent a large contingent of England fans delirious.
But England only had themselves to blame for seeing the game go down to the wire, with a string of handling errors in slippery conditions proving crucial as the tension mounted.
England had been in control 14-5 at half-time courtesy a Jason Robinson try and three Wilkinson penalties.
Australia had got off to a dream start after only six minutes, a bold decision to kick for touch instead of taking a penalty rewarded by a try for wing Lote Tuqiri. A beautifully weighted hanging cross kick from flyhalf Stephen Larkham caused panic in the England defence and Tuqiri raced up the touchline to outjump Robinson superbly and dot down.
England re-gathered quickly and got their first points on the board shortly afterwards however, when Flatley conceded a penalty for coming off his feet at a ruck. Wilkinson slotted the 45-metre kick .
Slowly England managed to generate some fluency, with Matt Dawson sniping around the fringes of the breakdown and linking well with his back-row.
Wilkinson punished a late tackle by Larkham on wing Ben Cohen with his second penalty to put England 6-5 up, but missed an opportunity to extend the lead when a drop-goal effort drifted wide.
England should have crossed for their first score early in the second quarter but lock Ben Kay fumbled and a certain try went begging. A lengthy injury time-out for Wilkinson caused flutters in English hearts but the No.10 got to his feet and rejoined the action .
And moments later Wilkinson was kicking England into a 9-5 lead, potting his third penalty of the night after Australia flanker Phil Waugh was penalised for not staying bound in a scrum, deep in the Wallabies 22.
A missed penalty from Flatley was the closest Australia came to scoring for the rest of the half as the English forwards, with Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio increasingly influential, tightened their grip.
Australia could find no way through an iron English defence, with centres Mike Tindall and Will Greenwood putting in some ferocious hits.