England has pulled off a stunning upset in the first semi-final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup by defeating tournament favourites the All Blacks 19 points to 7, taking the world number one ranking and knocking them out of the competition in the process.
England showed that they’d come to play early, with Manu Tuilagi scoring the first try of the game just over a minute into the contest.
The All Blacks had plenty to do in defence and held their opponents out for long periods of time. But at the end of the day, the English were too strong with four penalty goals to George Ford and the early try to Tuilagi proving too much for New Zealand to overcome.
Here are five talking points from the game.
England fire up with unique Haka response
It’s always special to witness the New Zealand players perform their traditional war dance the Haka before games.
But England showed that they were ready to fight fire with fire, taking the unusual step of facing the Haka in a V shape rather than in a straight line, presumably in order to increase the intensity of the confrontation.
Protests from the match officials seemingly fell on deaf ears, with up to three England players crossing over halfway to get in the faces of the All Blacks.
It was great theatre, and it will be interesting to see if this technique is used again in future by England or other teams.
The All Blacks are human
The Wallabies proved it in Bledisloe Cup Game 1 earlier in the year. And now the English have proven again – the All Blacks are in fact, only human.
The All Blacks have always been a force in international rugby. They’ve held the Bledisloe Cup for almost 20 years, and they are the defending World Champions for the last two tournaments.
Even when they weren’t winning World Cups, New Zealand would still go into most tournaments as raging hot favourites – a testament to how well they had played in the four years leading up to tournaments.
The All Blacks have built up this incredible track record over the last two World Cup cycles. It’s safe to say though that after losses to both Australia and now England in the same calendar year, that aura has decreased somewhat.
They’re still a force in world rugby – but this loss has definitely brought them back to the pack a bit.
England one step closer to completing massive World Cup turnaround
Not only does this win see England to their first World Cup final since 2007 when they lost to South Africa, but it caps a remarkable turnaround from where they were this time four years ago…nearly.
At the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup England were in disarray. In what was a first for English rugby, the team had sensationally failed to qualify for the quarter-finals – at their home tournament no less.
Rugby league convert Sam Burgess was public enemy number one in England, and coach Stuart Lancaster was on his way out the door. Considering this, it’s truly remarkable to think that in four years, Eddie Jones has taken this England side from failing to qualify for the quarter-finals to the final.
But he certainly won’t be satisfied with that turnaround – he’ll only be satisfied with a win next week.
End of an era for the All Blacks
With coach Steven Hansen ending his tenure at the helm after the World Cup, this loss signals the end of an era for the All Blacks.
Not only will Hansen be departing, but a host of long-serving players including captain Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty are all joining him out the exit door.
It will also be the first time in eight years that the All Blacks won’t be World Champions – that change will take some serious getting used to by the New Zealand public.
Owen Farrell ankle a concern for England
It’s not all sunshine and daisies for England right now. They may have qualified for the final next week, but England fans will not be thrilled about the ankle injury captain Owen Farrell seemed to pick up late in the second half.
After taking the first kick at the goal of the match to convert Tuilagi’s opening try in the second minute, Farrell handed the kicking duties over to flyhalf George Ford in the 39th minute after suffering the injury several minutes earlier. Ford went on to kick four penalties to give his side an unassailable lead.
Farrell managed to stay on for the remainder of the game which was a promising sign. But his involvement in the attack was fairly limited for the rest of the game. He was forced to work a lot in defence, making 15 tackles and missing a game-high of 6.
Coach Jones will be hoping Farrell’s ankle pulls up okay after this game against New Zealand – they absolutely need him there if they are to win the final next week.
What are your thoughts on the game, Roarers? Make sure to let me know in the comments, and make sure you tune in to the coverage of the second semi-final between Wales and South Africa at 7 pm tonight.