RWC Gold: When Stirling cashed in

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 22 July 2014
 
RWC Gold: When Stirling cashed in
Australia's RWC 2003 semi-final hero Stirling Mortlock

Mike Harrison, England’s captain at the inaugural Rugby World Cup, will forever be known as ‘Burglar Bill’ for his two intercept tries against the All Blacks in 1985.

Fast forward 18 years and the All Blacks were on the receiving end again, only this time the stakes were much higher – a place in the RWC 2003 final.

“Everybody talks about it…a lot of people remember that moment when Stirling Mortlock took that intercept pass off Carlos Spencer – the big, spiral pass,” former Wallabies skipper George Gregan told Total Rugby.

“It was one of their favourite plays and you know, an intercept is always a 14-point swing. If it comes off it’s great but if it doesn’t you’re probably behind your posts. It was a punt that Stirling took."

Having already been denied twice by try-saving tackles on either flank from wings Lote Tuqiri and Wendell Sailor, it only seemed a matter of time before the All Blacks got the first points on the board.

The host nation were, to coin a phrase, ‘under the pump’ and defending a lineout inside their own 22 when outside centre Mortlock picked off Spencer’s pass and raced virtually the entire length of the field to put Australia 5-0 up with 10 minutes on the clock.

“I’m very happy to have played a small role in that game but the thing that sticks firmly in my mind about that match is that everyone had a role to play in that game and we all executed it perfectly,” Mortlock said modestly.

Elton Flatley converted the try and added five penalties as Australia went on to win 22-10 and record their 12th successive Rugby World Cup win. Sadly for the Wallabies it was a case of ‘unlucky 13’ in the final against England.

The general attitude of the Wallabies that night was spot on,” added skipper Nathan Sharpe. “Had Stirling not scored that try I think there would have been other ways to get across the line. It was just one of those nights and we had a really good game plan and we executed it perfectly.”

Also on this week’s Total Rugby…we meet former All Black John Afoa who is set for a new life in England with Gloucester after a successful spell in Ireland at Ulster, Australia get busy preparing for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Uruguay head coach Pablo Lemoine looks back on his career highlights ahead of his side’s RWC 2015 Repechage qualifier against Hong Kong, Super Rugby is all set for the play-offs and the Van Vliet brothers talk about Netherlands’ rise in rugby....Click here>> to view this week's programme