England progressed to their first World Cup final since 2007 after outplaying New Zealand in a 19-7 victory in Yokohama on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The game was expected to be an epic contest and it proved to be so. The electric pre-match atmosphere was only heightened by England providing a unique challenge to the All Blacks’ haka, showing their intent to front up to the defending champions.
The match belonged to England as they disrupted the All Blacks at the set piece and breakdown and forced them into errors. It has been a while since the All Blacks lacked control as they did in this game and that had a lot to with their lack of stability at the set piece as well as the English kicking and defence.
After taking the lead through an early Manu Tuilagi try, England forced the All Blacks to attack from their own half and pressured them through an excellently organised press defence. The last time the All Blacks were nilled in a first half was when they last lost to England in 2012.
Unusually, New Zealand lost two of their lineouts and conceded a couple of scrum penalties. Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes were both superb in this regard as they outplayed the All Blacks duo of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s choice of playing lock Scott Barrett at flank didn’t seem to come off as planned, possibly illustrated by his decision to put Sam Cane on at half time.
New Zealand lived on the edge throughout the game, with some excellent scrambling preventing England from extending their lead. An excellent chase and cover tackle from Scott Barrett was all that prevented Jonny May from racing clear after Tuilagi intercepted. Sam Underhill, who had a potential winner disallowed against the All Blacks last year, once again had a try chalked off for obstruction in the buildup.
New Zealand worked their way back into the game through the boot of both Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga. However, they were possibly guilty of kicking too much ball away in promising positions when England were under pressure. England wings Jonny May and Anthony Watson coped very well with the All Blacks’ crosskicks, getting into position quick enough to either win the ball or make a tackle. England made 46 tackles in the opening 16 mins, which increased to 87 at half time.
George Ford was forced to step up as England kicker after Owen Farrell went down with a dead leg, but the flyhalf showed his composure to kick four penalties and ensure his side kept their distance from their opponents.
The All Blacks got back into the game as Jamie George overthrew a lineout 5m from his own line, allowing Ardie Savea to snatch the ball in the air and dive over to score. England responded with some excellent defensive pressure and won another penalty, which Ford converted to take them into a nine-point lead with 20 minutes to go.
A big turning point came in the last 15 minutes as the All Blacks won a kickable penalty to make it a six-point game, but it was reversed for an off-the-ball shove from Sam Whitelock. England kicked the ball upfield and Retallick was penalised at the driving maul, allowing England to open up a two-try gap, which was enough to see them home.
England – Try: Manu Tuilagi. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalties: George Ford (4).
All Blacks – Try: Ardie Savea. Conversion: Richie Mo’unga.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
All Blacks – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea , 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Jordie Barrett.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images