England have booked a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final by beating the All Blacks 19-7 in an incredible game of the most intense rugby.
There were stunning performances from all over the place but the English pack and back row were something special.
The first half began with all the pace and intensity that you would imagine. England especially were full of running and power and the Kiwis found it hard to cope with them in the opening passages of play.
Just two minutes in Manu Tuilagi went over as he finished off a fast start for the English. They were running hard, offloading well and really challenged the All Blacks with their own style of game.
In the next 15 minutes England then continued to hammer the All Blacks and heaped more and more pressure on them.
But, crucially, the Kiwis didn’t crack. Their defence was solid and they soaked up pressure incredibly well. As the half played out both sides continued to batter each other with neither showing signs of cracking.
There was talk ahead of the game about how the Kiwis’ line out had four talented jumpers and the English just two but it was the All Blacks line out that struggled in the opening half, losing a couple of important throws.
They also gave away a scrum penalty and the English went in at half time definitely ahead in the forward stakes.
The scoreline could have been worse for the All Blacks – in the 25th minute it looked like Sam Underhill had gone over for a great score but the TMO took it away from him.
In the build-up Tom Curry had been a dummy runner and Sam Whitelock had fallen for the dummy tackling the flanker who didn’t have the ball.
That tackle opened up space for Underhill to fly through but the TMO and ref decided that Curry was actually in an offside position.
It showed that England were finding ways to unlock this awesome Kiwi defence and that was promising for the challengers.
Just before half time the English managed to slide over a penalty goal thanks to George Ford and the lead stretched out to 10.
But the Kiwis would have felt that if they could have a good start to the second half, then they were right back in it.
Both sides continued at the same breakneck pace in the second half and while the Kiwis had more possession and territory they still couldn’t find a rhythm or tactic to unlock England.
The All Blacks gradually found themselves further and further behind in the game – maybe not on the scoreboard as both sides struggled to get points, but definitely in terms of momentum and control.
England’s discipline was good and their set-piece almost perfect but it was their tackling and work at the breakdown that really broke Kiwi hearts.
The hits that were coming in were huge and more importantly there were very few missed tackles from the English.
The English thought they had a crucial try when Ben Youngs darted and dummied and was in after some great line out work but the TMO (who definitely will not get a Christmas card from many English fans) said that the ball was passed forward in the maul.
As the boos rang out around the stadium, the All Blacks came right back at them.
New Zealand, as you’d expect, fought back and scored thanks to Ardie Savea in the 57th minute. It was a poor England line out on their own line that Savea jumped on – and for a second, you wondered if this was where England cracked.
But six minutes later they built more pressure on the All Blacks, got the penalty and slotted another three points. Then seven minutes later another, and the English had the gap that they needed to see the game out.
There were some great performances by England in that game – the back row was incredible and the team in general was controlled and accurate.
England never let the Kiwis settle and the All Blacks will be so disappointed that they went out of the World Cup in this way. They were outplayed today by a good plan that was perfectly executed.
Can England go on and win the whole thing from here? If they play like that again then there aren’t many teams that could handle it.
However that’s a big if. There might be some injuries to worry about for Eddie Jones and he needs to make sure that his team know they haven’t won anything yet.
All Blacks 7