Friday, November 01, 2013

Take the Earn It challenge

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So often the plucky underdog, rarely the dominant force, England’s sportsmen are forever a stream of hard-luck stories across the board. But amid the drab performances, Blighty's hardened national fans do get a few precious moments to knock the colour back into their pale cheeks. For those who prefer prolate spheroids to regular spheres, their 2003 Rugby World Cup win against Australia was one such moment.

At the heart of that success was, of course, Jonny Wilkinson, the player who stepped up to make the difference at vital moments in rugby's biggest prize. If you’re after a bump of nostalgia to relive those halcyon days when England still won things, here are Wilkinson’s five greatest England moments.

Strongbow25. 2003 Six Nations

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Wilkinson’s performances throughout the 2003 Six Nations were lauded by critics as key in propelling England to its Grand Slam. And they were right: Wilkinson contributed 77 points to be crowned the competition’s top scorer, including 20 of England’s 25 points in a crucial win over France.

Strongbow34. 2003 World Cup semi-final

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Wilkinson single-handedly saw France off in Sydney to take England to their only World Cup final since 1995. Now at the peak of his career, Wilkinson scored all of England's 24 points, with five penalties and three drop goals.

 

Strongbow43. Breaks record points haul

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Despite a career blighted by injury, it's a testament to Wilkinson's strength that he’s still managed to break records and cement his place in the legendarium of rugby players. He took the record for most International points in a game in February 2011, against France at Twickenham.

Strongbow42. 2007 World Cup semi-final

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If there’s one team that was delighted to see the back of Wilkinson when he retired from international rugby, it was France. Once again they suffered at his hands in the 2007 World Cup semi-final, when Wilkinson kicked an otherwise largely mediocre England into the final. A penalty and a drop goal in final five minutes gave England a narrow win.

Strongbow61. 2003 World Cup final

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The last minute of extra time, in the final of the World Cup, is where great players cement their legacy. When Wilkinson’s stunning composure allowed him to nail a last-gasp drop goal with his weaker right foot to beat the Aussies in their own back yard, his place in history had been confirmed. There were only 20 seconds to go before sudden death when his drop goal won England the championship.

Finally, England had secured a World Cup final, and Wilkinson became a national hero. His teammate Matt Dawson said, “Many a coach has preached ‘one man doesn’t make a team’ but on this occasion JW breaks the rules. He was a metronome.”

Wilkinson’s career has been a rollercoaster. Huge highs were often tempered by injury-laden lows, but he always answered the call at the most high pressure moments.

To test your ability when the pressure is high, find out more about the Strongbow Earn It Challenge at the website: http://strongbow.com.

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