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Rugby World Cup final: Secret Drinker reminisces about where he was when England lifted the trophy in 2003

Come on England, you can do it, the whole country is behind you.

It seems like only yesterday I was willing the Roses to beat the Aussies and lift the world cup in their own back yard, was it really 16 years ago?

England captain Martin Johnson lifts the trophy Picture: Action Images / Andrew Budd
England captain Martin Johnson lifts the trophy Picture: Action Images / Andrew Budd

And, just like I will be again this Saturday, I was up at stupid o’clock to get seats in the pub, a clear view of the screen and the chance to down at least three pints ahead of kick-off.

But, what I’ve never shared since that unforgettable early morning session in The Bull is just how close I came to losing us the world cup – well, losing it for all the England fans in this particular West Malling pub anyway.

It was 17-17 and we were into extra time, nothing between us and the Aussies, the game on a knife-edge, it was so tense I almost couldn’t drink lager, almost.

The atmosphere in the pub was electric, I’ve not witnessed such high expectation and heartfelt camaraderie among a group of ardent drinkers thrown together at such short notice, either before or since that day.

Then, with just seconds to go until sudden death, that super-human hero Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal to take England ahead.

The Bull Inn, West Malling. Picture: Martin Apps
The Bull Inn, West Malling. Picture: Martin Apps

Imagine the excitement in the pub, imagine the joy unbounded as everyone leapt into the air – just moments to go for England to win its first ever rugby world cup.

And then, just as everyone screamed in delight and hugged the closest person to them the screen died, complete blackness, total silence.

By some miracle there was a miniature telly at the front of the pub and the whole back bar emptied, rushing forward in the vain hope of seeing their heroes achieve immortality.

The size of the screen meant only a favoured few managed to witness the moment of glory as the final whistle blew. And we were well into the post-match interviews before power to the projector and giant screen was restored.

Now, 16 years on and just a few days before England strive to repeat the feat against the mighty Boks, it’s time for me to clear my conscience and admit the awful truth.

It was all my fault those final minutes of that incredible game on November 22, 2003 were lost. In all the excitement of that unbelievable drop goal and the celebrations that followed no-one noticed that, as I leapt into the air with arms aloft, the knuckle of my forefinger hit the power-off button.

Luckily for me, in all the excitement and the lager-fuelled haze, no-one noticed what caused the sudden power outage which stole the final, crucial minutes of the world cup.

I later consoled myself that I saved several dozen ardent drinking/rugby fans from having to endure the terrible nerve-jangling final seconds of such a momentous game. Though I wasn’t confident enough they would see it this way to admit it was me who’d hit the button.

Having finally found the courage to talk about my over-zealous, lager-inspired actions in 2003 I can reveal will once again be watching England’s World Cup final adventure from the only place any self-respecting rugby fan should – one of Kent’s great pubs.

Fortunately for me there are a multitude of boozers opening their doors early on Saturday for this great occasion and I’m not telling anyone where I plan to be this time.

The Bull will once again be hosting a fine early morning session and I heartily recommend it to you – you can be safe in the knowledge I shall be elsewhere this time.

Where were you when England lifted the trophy in 2003? Let us know by emailing news@thekmgroup.co.uk

To read the Secret Drinker’s pub reviews click here.

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