|2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final|
|England: (10) 19|
|Try: Tuilagi Con: Farrell Pen: Ford 4|
|New Zealand: (0) 7|
|Try: Savea Con: Mo’unga|
England are into their first Rugby World Cup final in 12 years after a brilliant demolition of three-time world champions New Zealand.
England had stormed into a 10-0 lead, Manu Tuilagi’s second-minute try and a long-range penalty from George Ford fitting reward for a blistering first half.
The 2003 winners could have been out of sight had tries for Sam Underhill and Ben Youngs not been ruled out by the video referee, but when Ardie Savea pounced on a wayward line-out throw to reduce the deficit to 13-7 the three-time world champions were on the charge.
Yet the superb Ford landed a trio of nerveless penalties and with the young dynamos Underhill and Tom Curry outstanding in the back row England held on in style to pull off one of their greatest victories.
The All Blacks had not lost a World Cup game in 12 years and had won 15 of the past 16 games between the two nations.
But four years after crashing out at the group stage England tore the crown from their head with a performance of unremitting energy and excellence on a night for the ages in Yokohama.
England nail perfect 10 in breathless first half
It was a start Eddie Jones’ men would have dreamed of.
Anthony Watson escaped down the right, England came in white-shirted waves and after Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes crashed on, Tuilagi dived over from two metres out.
Farrell landed the conversion for 7-0 with only two minutes on the clock – and when Tuilagi picked off a stray pass from Beauden Barrett and found Jonny May accelerating up on his outside shoulder it looked for all the world like a second try, only for flanker Scott Barrett to get across and force the winger inside and into heavy traffic.
The pace was ferocious, England playing with a glorious tempo and precision, New Zealand using full-back Barrett as playmaker as they struggled to exert their usual control.
England went close again before Owen Farrell spilt the ball deep in the opposition 22, and then a possible try for Underhill was correctly ruled out because Curry’s run had blocked off two defenders.
But Jones’ men were dominating the set-piece and the breakdown, Ford sending a long-range drop goal just to the right of the posts as England searched for the points to match their endeavour.
The points finally came right on the half-time gong after Underhill won a breakdown penalty, and Ford – with Farrell struggling with a leg injury – landed a precious three points from 45 metres out.
Champions dethroned by unremitting England
If 10-0 was the least England’s dominance merited, it was a remarkable enough half-time scoreline.
Only once before have the All Blacks failed to score a point in the first half of a World Cup game, and not in 28 years.
Steve Hansen threw on Sam Cane for Scott Barrett in the second period but it was England who appeared to have struck the killer blow when Youngs darted over off a driving maul.
With the most kickable of conversions to come it looked like 17-0 and the game – but as Ford stood over his tee the big screens in the stadium showed a knock-on in the maul, and referee Nigel Owens, in consultation with the TMO, chalked it off to choruses of boos from the vast English support.
But Henry Slade came on for the struggling May and Dan Cole for a spent Sinckler and the white tide came again.
This time it was Billy Vunipola digging for the turnover, and with New Zealand infringing again in front of the posts Ford made it 13-0.
England were dreaming, until with 24 minutes still to go disaster struck.
Jamie George over-threw his line-out jumpers five metres from his own try-line, and Savea ran on to the ball and gratefully flopped over.
With Richie Mo’unga sliding over the conversion it was suddenly 13-7 and the outcome right back in the balance.
In a battle of heavyweights it was England who landed the next jab through Ford’s third penalty after another tenderising tackle by the indefatigable Underhill.
And with tournament favourites New Zealand running out of ideas as the game entered its dying moments and English tacklers pummelling their ball-carriers, Jones had pulled off yet another underdog triumph.
Man of the match – Sam Underhill (England)
‘We’ve come here to be world’s best’
England head coach Eddie Jones on BBC Radio 5 Live: “What we’ve done is earn another week in the comp, which is great. I thought our tactical discipline was great, our defensive work-rate was good. I thought when we had opportunities to attack, we attacked well.
“You want to go right to the death and we’re in the death now. We’ve got another week to enjoy ourselves and work as a team. Our players made a commitment to each other that they’d enjoy the World Cup and I think we’re seeing that.
“Whenever you play against New Zealand, you’re never happy. You might beat them on the scoreboard but you never really beat them. They kept coming at us and we needed to dig deep and a find a bit extra.
“We’ve come here to be the world’s best and we haven’t done that yet, so that’s where we need to go.”
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen: “Congratulations to England – they played a tremendous game of footy and deserved to win. You cannot give them half a step, but they took it.
“I am really proud of our team. They have done a tremendous job, but we were not good enough. We take it on the chin. The boys tried their guts out and I am proud of them.”
Reaction – ‘England close to invincible’
England World Cup winner Matt Dawson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “They are now in the final, which makes this next week so much easier, so much more relaxed. They don’t need to do much work; they can rest up, focus on the opposition, do loads of video analysis – if they do the detail for next week as much as they did today they are close to invincible.”
Former England fly-half Paul Grayson: “England got it absolutely right. The quality of some of the tackling – you were never two passes away from a dominant hit and they picked when to go in and compete almost perfectly. England spent the whole of the second half forcing New Zealand to play out from their own third. They were physically and mentally dominant today.”
Former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens: “Steve Hansen has been part of a group that has left them in a position for sustainable success. He’s broadened and strengthened the depth of the squad. He’s done amazing things for New Zealand rugby, so he won’t be judged for this performance, but he’ll be bitterly disappointed.
“New Zealand haven’t been exposed to that level of physicality and intensity maybe since 2012. England were able to shut down the key players tonight.”
England end All Blacks’ winning run – the stats
- England beat New Zealand for the first time since 2012, ending a six-game losing streak against the All Blacks, and for the first time at a World Cup after three previous defeats.
- New Zealand lost a World Cup match for the first time since the 2007 quarter-final, having recorded an 18-game winning streak since that defeat.
- England have reached the final for the fourth time – no side has reached that stage more often (level with New Zealand and Australia).
- New Zealand were kept scoreless in the first half of a World Cup match for just the second time (the other versus Australia in the 1991 quarter-final) and for the first time in any Test match since their 2012 defeat by England.
- England won 16 turnovers against New Zealand, the most by any side at this year’s World Cup and England’s joint-most in a match at the tournament, also winning 16 against Japan in 1987.
- Maro Itoje won three turnovers in a match for the third time at the tournament – no other player has managed that more than once at this World Cup.
- Sam Whitelock lost a World Cup match for the first time in his career – his 18-game winning run was the longest of any player in the tournament’s history.
England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Lawes, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Cole, Kruis, Wilson, Heinz, Slade, Joseph.
New Zealand: B Barrett; Reece, Goodhue, Lienert-Brown, Bridge; Mo’unga, Smith; Moody, Taylor, Laulala, Retallick, Whitelock, Barrett, Savea, Read (capt).
Replacements: Coles, Tuungafasi, Ta’avao, Tuipulotu, Cane, Perenara, Williams, J Barrett.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales); Assistants: Romain Poite (France), Pascal Gauzere (France); TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)