World Cup stalwarts take their bow
AUCKLAND, 22 Oct. - Two Rugby World Cup stalwarts took their bow in the Bronze Final at Eden Park on Friday.
There were mixed fortunes for Wales wing Shane Williams and Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe as Australia emerged 21-18 winners.
Sharpe, playing his 100th Test, limped from the field five minutes into the second half, after finally succumbing to a leg injury suffered when he landed awkwardly at an early lineout.
Williams, 34, scored his 57th Test try - and his third of the tournament - as the promising Welsh campaign came to a fruitless end.
Teammate Mike Phillips paid tribute to the wing, who has scored a record 10 RWC tries for Wales and is the third-highest Test try-scorer.
"He is one of the best players in the world and one of the best players I have ever played with," said the scrum half. "He is a genius on the pitch and makes magic happen. He is the sort of player that fans want to come to see."
Williams said his third RWC had been the most satisfying. "It has been tremendous and the spirit and atmosphere throughout the camp has been fantastic," said the 1.70m flyer.
"We are a proud bunch and very disappointed not to have won. We wanted to go out on a high tonight. We said we wanted to go out in the second half and give it everything, but it just wasn't to be tonight."
Sharpe, 33 and also playing in his third RWC, was unable to produce his best form as a result of his injury.
"I thought I was coming off but I managed to carry on until the end of the first half," said the second row. "At half-time I stopped running around and had no choice but to leave the field."
Sharpe, the only squad member to have played in the RWC 2003 final defeat by England, said the Wallabies were determined to bounce back from their semi-final loss to the All Blacks last weekend.
"Throughout the tournament, the way it rolled out, we really wanted to finish on a high," he said.
Man of the match Berrick Barnes admitted Sharpe's own milestone had also been a major incentive.
"We had a good game today," he said. "We played for pride and for Nathan Sharpe's 100th game. It is not ideal losing in the semi-finals, but we did our bit today and made it happen tonight."