WATCH: England enter the final and dump New Zealand out of RWC with a 19-7 win
Who could've seen this coming?
Heading into this monumental game, England coach Eddie Jones had urged his side to "make the script" in their semifinals clash against the reigning World Champions New Zealand in Yokohama. The odds were stacked so firmly against England to win this tie – and yet they did win. The All Blacks were on an 18-game World Cup win streak going back to the 2007 tournament. These two sides have met three times in prior WCs with NZ winning all three games. Additionally, NZ had won 33 out of 41 matches against the English and had won 15 of the last 16 games against them.
Just before kickoff, England stared down the fearsome All Blacks Haka with Owen Farrell even managing a cheeky smirk against his opponents.
And so, cheered on by thousands of supporters, the first semifinal of the RWC 2019 kicked off.
England 19-7 New Zealand: Watch highlights below
Barely two minutes into the game and England smashed New Zealand to land the first points of the match. The All Blacks barely got a touch on the ball as England offloaded with ease to find Manu Tuilagi who rammed through the defence to touch down just 98 seconds in! Owen Farrell converted for an early England lead. It was the first try that NZ had conceded in the first half in this tournament.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 26, 2019
24 minutes into the game and Sam Underhill crossed the NZ try line to score but a TMO review found that the dummy runner, tackled by Sam Whitelock in front of the ball, was a blocking run. The decision was the right one and turned out to be a massive let-off for the All Blacks.
England's attack looked sharp – constantly getting into one on ones with their opponents and dominating play. They were creating constant overlaps while delivering crisp passes, stifling their opponents very well. But for all their good work, NZ were only a converted score behind and could still get back in this game with ease.
39 minutes in and England had a penalty and George Ford stepped up to line a shot at the posts – he made no mistake as England took a 10 point lead with seconds to go before halftime.
England kept rattling the New Zealand cage, who uncharacteristically kept losing the ball. This NZ side are known to do the simple things brilliantly and that's what makes them so ferocious to play against and yet they were failing in that very aspect against England.
Halftime arrived and Steve Hansen's men didn't look like they'd turned up for this game at all. In fact, the last seven times that the All blacks had been left scoreless at halftime, they ended up losing the game. The stats told a similar story with England dominating proceedings with 62% possession, 69% territory, more clean breaks, more passes, more runs and fewer tackles. Eddie Jones couldn't have asked for much more from his squad.
0 - Only once before have New Zealand failed to score a point in the first half of a @rugbyworldcup game - against Australia in the 1991 semi-final (trailed 13-0 at HT). Rattled.#RWC2019 #ENGvNZL pic.twitter.com/4GduBhEl2t
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 26, 2019
The second half kicked off and just a minute in, England had another penalty from the halfway line and Elliot Daly stepped up to line a shot from around 50m out. The effort was well struck but ended up just wide of the posts.
44 minutes in and Ben Youngs poked through to score England's second try but it ended up being ruled out after Nigel Owens deemed that the ball was bobbled forward at the back of the maul. It was an agonising moment for the English who already had two tries ruled out in the game as New Zealand were let off the hook again.
Five minutes later and yet another penalty for England – Ford grabbed the three points for a score of 13-0. The All Blacks had to score next or risk England running away with the tie.
And they did just that.
59 minutes in, England had a lineout metres from their try line and Jamie George skewed his throw which looped over target Maro Itoje and landed easily for Ardie Savea, who touched down for five easy points. Richie Mounga converted for a 13-7 score.
63 minutes in and England landed another penalty and once again, Ford converted with ease for a 16-7 score.
Entering the final 10 minutes of the encounter, England had a chance to put the game to bed with another penalty. And Ford delivered flawlessly as England pulled out a 12-point lead over Hansen's men.
With minutes left to fight for their crown, New Zealand began to probe England's 22 for chances to score but every channel used was met by a thumping English tackle. It was astounding and resolute defending from the English.
And fulltime arrived! The giants had been slain by the English with a performance no less worthy of knighthood. The final scoreline read 19-7.
Was always going to take something very special to beat as side with the ability and history of NZ. And that was very special. Don’t believe there can be any complaints about that outcome. So many outstanding performances 🏴 👊 #RWC2019
— Will Carling (@willcarling) October 26, 2019
Eddie Jone's men had secured their first final since 2007 and fourth overall. They became the first team to exit the pool stages in one tournament (2015) before going on to reach a final in the subsequent tournament (2019).
Take a moment here to appreciate the scale of England's achievement – they have triumphed over the reigning World Champions. They have ended NZ's 18-game win streak, won a game that nobody expected them to win and to top it all, they outplayed them. Were it not for the two disallowed tries, the scoreline would have been a lot more disapproving of the All Blacks. Hansen's men never looked like scoring and the try they did manage was a fortuitous one.
George Ford spoke to the BBC post-game:
"So we’ll take it, but what an incredible team NZ are to play against. It’s unique and you cannot switch off. Now we’ll prepare well for next week."
"We never switched off, ever! You cannot switch off for one second no matter what the scoreboard is, we had to fight until the end."
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen also spoke:
"Congratulations to England, they played a tremendous game of footy and deserved to win. You cannot give them half a step, but they took it."
I’m already an expert on this rugby malarchy, and confidently predict that England will beat the Germans in the final. Come On England.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 26, 2019
In the buildup to this game, in a press conference, England coach Eddie Jones asked the reporters to raise their hands if any among them thought they would win? Not a single hand went up, proving his point that all the pressure was on the All blacks. And so it proved to be on the pitch.
Congratulations to the @englandrugby team. Too good tonight lads, good luck at the big dance next week. ✊🏽
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) October 26, 2019
Missed tackles, dropped balls, penalties conceded, passes being intercepted – was this the same New Zealand side that we've seen all tournament long? They were practically camped in their half for most of the game, an unthinkable proposition only a few weeks ago. But Sport can be a cruel mistress and just like any dynasty, all cycles meet their demise somewhere along the line and New Zealand's arrived today in Yokohama.
As for England, with this scorching form, who could rule them out from lifting their second RWC trophy in a week's time? Absolutely no one!