Australia 17-20 England
22 November, 2003 – Telstra Stadium, Sydney
The final was going to provide a new first, be it with Australia defending the Webb Ellis Cup or England as a northern hemisphere champion. Few though expected the 100 minutes rollercoaster ride of emotions that unfolded before the 82,957 crowd.
Australia enjoyed the perfect start when wing Lote Tuqiri out jumped his fellow rugby league convert Jason Robinson to touch down a Stephen Larkham up and under, but the side scoring first in the two previous finals had gone on to suffer heartbreak.
Jonny Wilkinson had kicked England into the lead with three penalties as rain began to fall in Sydney. Then wing Robinson crossed on the left after a midfield charge by number 8 Lawrence Dallaglio just before half time to make it 14-5 to his side.
Things looked ominous for Australia when England started the second half strongly, but two Elton Flatley penalties cut the deficit to three with 20 minutes to go. England were almost home when the Wallaby fly half kicked another as the final whistle beckoned.
Wilkinson edged England ahead within minutes of extra time kicking off, but once again Flatley hauled Australia level with 97 minutes on the clock to the delight of the home crowd.
There was to be one final twist on that emotional rollercoaster, one final push from the exhausted England players to give Wilkinson another kick at goal. Matt Dawson darted through a gap, Martin Johnson took it on and then the ball flew back to Wilkinson in the pocket.
English fans held their breath as his 'wrong' right foot made contact with the ball, their eyes trained on the trajectory of its flight as it sailed between the uprights giving England a 20-17 lead with 26 seconds remaining of extra time.
The Australian dream had been ruined by Wilkinson, who became the tournament's top point scorer with 113, and it was left to centre Mike Catt to kick the ball into touch to spark wild celebrations.
The back page of one English newspaper the next day summed it up perfectly: "At last! 37 years, 114 days, 17 hours and 53 minutes later, we're world champions again", the rugby stars having emulated their footballing counterparts of 1966.