Exceptional England dethrone New Zealand to reach final

Rugby World Cup 2019

Semi-final

England 19-7 New Zealand 

England powered to one of the most memorable triumphs in their rugby history in Yokohama on Saturday, washing away years of disappointment and near-misses against New Zealand by finally defeating and dethroning the champions on the biggest World Cup stage.

The All Blacks’ dream of a third successive title crashed around them as Eddie Jones’s men delivered the performance of their lives to roar into next Saturday’s final at the same International Stadium by beating the one side they had always failed to tame at the World Cup.

There could be no arguments about the triumph. England were by far the superior side from the moment when Manu Tuilagi crashed over for the opening try within the first two minutes – the fastest try ever scored against New Zealand in the World Cup. They then prevented the All Blacks from scoring for longer than any side had ever done in the World Cup.

It was England’s only try of the night – they had two others ruled out – and though they gave up a soft score to Ardie Savea from a mistake on their own line-out in the second half, they were dominant for long periods of the match. George Ford’s four penalties punished the dispirited champions for their indiscipline as their famed game unravelled in the face of the English power and physicality.

The champions floundered in the face of England’s supreme defence, which had been organised by the former New Zealand coach John Mitchell. The men in white were heroes to a man but Player of the Match Maro Itoje stood out for a colossal performance as did Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, who produced hit after thunderous hit.

The victory sets up the chance for England to win the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time in their history 16 years after they beat Australia in Sydney. Their opponents will be either South Africa or Wales, who meet in the other semi-final in Yokohama on Sunday.

For the All Blacks, it was the end of a triumphant World Cup era as they suffered their first defeat since the quarter-final against France in 2007.

England players celebrate after Manu Tuilagi’s second-minute try.

The scene was set for rare old drama before the match when England advanced on both sides of the haka in a V formation, with Joe Marler getting so close to the left-hand side that referee Nigel Owens had to wave at the prop to get him to retreat. Marler seemed to pretend he had not heard, and made the New Zealanders wait to start their pre-match ritual.

Now suitably fired up, England began with a furious series of attacks. From the first lineout they launched a series of softly recycled assaults to put the All Blacks under pressure and by the seventh phase of the unrelenting waves, Tuilagi was ready to burrow over for the first try in 1min 40sec.   

The All Blacks seemed shell-shocked and, from the restart when the hungry Owen Farrell ripped the ball from prop Nepo Laulala’s grasp, England maintained their fabulous start, with only brilliant work from Scott Barrett halting a Jonny May raid towards the try-line.

In a thrilling encounter, England seemed to be holding the aces as they twice raided the New Zealand lineout and. momentarily, it seemed they had forged further ahead when Underhill powered through a wide gap to storm over in the 25th minute. The ‘try’ was ruled out for Tom Curry blocking off a potential tackle. Flanker Underhill also had a try disallowed in the defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham last year.

With England still in the ascendancy, George Ford was freed for a drop goal attempt after 33 minutes but was wayward. 

Yet England did earn what felt like a crucial score just before half-time when Scott Barrett was penalised for coming in from the side and, though he was at the limit of his range between the 10-metre line and half-way, Ford kicked the penalty. England deservedly went in 10-0 ahead.

By now the rain was coming down and the All Blacks were faced with having to pull off the biggest comeback in their World Cup history. The odds proved insuperable.

England’s George Ford kicks a penalty during the semi-final.

England, though, began the second period like they finished the first. Elliot Daly missed an early penalty from inside his own half but the men in white kept coming and after being awarded a penalty for Aaron Smith lying on the ball, the subsequent rolling maul ended with Ben Youngs scurrying over.

England’s joy was short-lived, as the TMO ruled that the ball had gone forward in the maul. Still, though, New Zealand were so rattled that their discipline was unravelling and Sam Cane was penalised for tackling off the ball.

When George Ford kicked England 13 points clear and Tuilagi had made a stirring challenge in the corner to stop Sevu Reece, it seemed the only calamity for the white shirts would be if they self-imploded.

Sure enough, Jamie George then overthrew on their own lineout for Ardie Savea to pile over for a score.

Suddenly, at 13-7, the All Blacks were right back in the hunt and memories of how England had blown a 15-point lead at Twickenham the previous year suddenly re-emerged.

Yet in the frantic closing stages, England kept their cool by far the better of the two sides. After Underhill had set up another penalty for offside with a colossal hit on Jordie Barrett, Ford made it 16-7.

A rare All Blacks attack earned them a penalty but it was reversed because the experienced Sam Whitelock shoved Farrell in the face off the ball. The champions were unravelling in the face of a great England performance.

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