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Dublin: 9°C Monday 10 May 2021

Eddie Jones' sensational England dethrone the All Blacks in Japan

The back-to-back winners lost their first World Cup game since 2007.

England 19

New Zealand 7 

ON THE SAME week that Japan’s new emperor was enthroned, back-to-back Rugby World Cup winners All Blacks were dethroned on Japanese soil.

Eddie Jones’ England stunned the Kiwis in Yokohama with a dominant semi-final victory that genuinely could have been even more comfortable.

ben-youngs-celebrates-a-try-with-henry-slade-and-manu-tuilagi-that-was-later-disallowed Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

England laid down a major psychological marker before kick-off by forming a V in front of the Kiwi haka and encroaching into the defending champions’ half. The match officials asked them to step back but England refused.

Jones’ men did as much with their performance too, leading from early on as they displayed unshakeable confidence and delivered on an intelligent game plan that suffocated the Kiwis.

The English were sublime with a physically powerful performance that also featured some classy attacking play and calm strategic decision-making from their 10-12 combination of George Ford and Owen Farrell. 

The English pack, led by powerhouses like Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, was spectacularly good as they offered superb lineout defence – forwards coach Steve Borthwick deserves credit – smashing tackles, thunderous ball-carrying and no shortage of handling skill.

Jones will point out to his team that they created more opportunities than the one they took for Manu Tuilagi’s brilliant third-minute try, as England now march on to their first World Cup final since losing to South Africa in 2007.

They could yet face the Boks here in Yokohama next Saturday, with Rassie Erasmus’ men set to take on Wales in tomorrow’s second semi-final. Whoever advances from that contest will be up against the new tournament favourites in England.

the-england-team-face-the-new-zealand-haka Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

This defeat is the All Blacks’ first in the World Cup since their quarter-final exit to France in 2007 and they can have no arguments about this exit, having been comprehensively outplayed and utterly shut down by England.

The Kiwis’ only score of the game came from a lineout error by the English, with Steve Hansen’s side stifled in attack just a week after they hammered Ireland in the quarter-finals.

England led 10-0 at the break after a dominant first-half that could have yielded more scoreboard pressure. That the Kiwis were nilled in the first-half for just the second time in 21 years spoke volumes. The other occasion was in Twickenham in 2012, when the English also won.

That win seven years ago has now been eclipsed and there were some familiar faces who shone again here. Manu Tuilagi was sensational at outside centre for the English in this semi-final, offering powerful running outside Ford and Farrell, the latter of whom battled through an injury to finish the game.

Head coach Jones has long stated that England’s single goal during his time in charge was to win the 2019 World Cup and beat the All Blacks in doing so.

They’ve achieved the latter part of that ambition with a game still to spare in this World Cup but few will bet against them getting the job done next weekend. 

manu-tuilagi-scores-a-try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tuilagi’s third-minute try had the English supporters in dreamland. Fullback Elliot Daly picked out Richie Mo’unga in the defensive line for the initial linebreak before Sinckler made a superb offload in midfield from Courtney Lawes’ tip-on pass to continue the momentum.

After some punishing English carrying to within metres, Tuilagi pick and flopped over the line to the right of the posts, with Farrell converting for the perfect 7-0 lead.

Jones’ men very nearly had a second in the eighth minute but All Blacks blindside flanker Scott Barrett did superbly to track back on England wing Jonny May to prevent what looked like a certain score, the chance stemming from Tuilagi’s intercept of a Beauden Barrett pass. 

With the Kiwi lineout under pressure throughout the first half, Itoje was wreaking havoc, twice turning the ball over at the tail of mauls, while Lawes had a beautiful steal of Codie Taylor’s throw on the England 22.

The English briefly thought they had their second try in the 25th minute but the TMO review showed that Underhill’s break had been facilitated by Curry blocking ahead of Sinckler’s pass, referee Nigel Owens ruling the score out. 

With Farrell appearing to suffer a dead leg, the Kiwis issued a reminder of their counter-attacking class as Mo’unga and Scott Barrett offloads sent Brodie Retallick galloping out of his own half before a classy Beauden Barrett pass out of contact, but England scrambled well.

A scrum penalty for the impressive English pack allowed them to apply more pressure in the Kiwi half, first with a three-phase drop-goal build-up that Ford sent wide before Sinckler knocked-on on the next attack.

jack-goodhue-with-george-ford-owen-farrell-and-sam-underhill Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But England finished the half strongly, with Curry and Underhill earning back-to-back turnover penalties, the latter seeing Scott Barrett punished for side entry and allowing Ford to kick a long-range penalty to ensure that 10-0 half-time lead.

England were steely in the opening minutes of the second period, Daly narrowly wide with a penalty shot from inside his own half after Sam Whitelock was pinged for blocking Youngs as he scrambled for a loose Ardie Savea offload.

Again, the English had a try correctly ruled out after Ben Youngs’ intercept of Sevu Reece and grubber ahead was followed up by an excellent Farrell tackle on Beauden Barrett, resulting in Aaron Smith going off his feet.

England nudged the penalty into the left corner and Youngs appeared to have scored off the back of the ensuing maul, but TMO Marius Jonker and Owens identified that hooker Jamie George had lost the ball forward as the English transferred to the back of the maul.

Jones’ men did extend their lead soon after, though, as Sam Cane – on for Scott Barrett at the break – tackled Billy Vunipola off the ball and Farrell tapped over the straightforward shot at goal for a 13-0 advantage with 30 minutes remaining.

A clever grubber kick from Henry Slade – sent on for the clearly injured May and slotting into fullback – nearly resulted for a score for Daly, now on the left wing, only for Reece to pluck the inviting ball out of the air and save the All Blacks. 

Aware that they were now in danger of losing touch, the Kiwis finally mustered a response. It started with Savea’s turnover penalty, as Hansen sent on Sonny Bill Williams and TJ Perenara for a momentum lift.

ardie-savea-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-sam-whitelock-and-tj-perenara Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While Underhill delivered a savage hit on Read on the subsequent lineout attack, classy hands from Cane to Williams allowed the replacement centre to throw an overhead pass to Reece, who thundered down the touchline.

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The right wing was tackled into touch by Tuilagi and Slade – whose hit was ok’d by the TMO – but England botched the five-metre lineout, George’s throw clearing the head of Itoje, who was under severe pressure from Retallick.

Waiting at the back was Savea, who happily dived over to allow Mo’unga to close the deficit to 13-7 with his conversion.

But the Kiwis weren’t composed after the score, with replacement wing Jordie Barrett spilling the ball forward in the backfield as Tuilagi hounded him. England swept back onto the attack and battered at the Kiwi tryline until Cane was caught offside and Ford opted to stick over the three points.

The Kiwis needed to keep their cool but, uncharacteristically, they lost it. Whitelock was penalised for shoving Farrell in the face after the whistle and then England earned another penalty at the resulting lineout as Retallick came in from the side of the maul.

Ford calmly stroked over the penalty from out on the left and the English led 19-7, before defending for their lives to see out the win. 

England scorers:

TriesManu Tuilagi

ConversionsOwen Farrell [1 from 1]

PenaltiesGeorge Ford [4 from 5], Elliot Daly [0 from 1]

New Zealand scorers:

TriesArdie Savea

ConversionsRichie Mo’unga [1 from 1]

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly (Henry Slade ’45); Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi (Jonathan Joseph ’74), Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs (Willi Heinz ’63); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler ’70), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie ’70), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole ’47); Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (George Kruis ’55); Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Mark Wilson ’70), Billy Vunipola.

NEW ZEALAND: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue (Sonny Bill Williams ’55), Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge (Jordie Barrett ’50); Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith (TJ Perenara ’55); Joe Moody (Ofa Tuungafasi ’63), Codie Taylor (Dane Coles ’50), Nepo Laulala (Angus Ta’avao ’55); Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock (Patrick Tuipulotu ’66); Scott Barrett (Sam Cane ‘HT), Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (captain)

Attendance: 68,843

Referee: Nigel Owens [Wales]. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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