Thumping tackles, big carries and a poacher's finish... the Bath flanker was in fine form
WELCOME TO the big time, Sam Underhill.
England may have lost to the All Blacks 16-15 in the driving Twickenham rain, while a potentially match-winning try for the Bath flanker was ruled out after the TMO ruled that Courtney Lawes was offside when he charged-down TJ Perenara. However, there was nothing to detract from Underhill’s outstanding display.
The building blocks for a standout performance were all there. After 20 minutes, the Bath flanker zeroed in on All Blacks full-back Damian McKenzie, as he pulled in a kick, and hammered him. By minute 33 he had also rattled Beauden Barrett with a big tackle as the fly-half fielded a kick.
Then there was his non-try.
Ignoring whether or not Lawes was behind the hindmost foot of the ruck, Underhill did what any good poacher will do by taking the spilt New Zealand ball. Then he showed a clean pair of heals as he charge for the line. With Barrett – now at full-back tracking his run, Underhill showed an sharp finisher’s mind.
The flanker stepped off his left foot, feigning to run towards the post. As Barrett turned his back to anticipate this, Underhill stepped back to the left and gunned it towards the left corner. Cue scenes of real jubilation from the English side… before the match officials stepped in.
Those two hits by Underhill on the Kiwi playmakers were two of ten hits in the first half. He would make a further ten tackles in the second half. But as impressive was the flanker’s willingness to make big carries.
Talking to BBC 5live after the game, the bath back-rower said of his shot at glory at the end: “I don’t know what I was thinking when I went over. When it got brought back it was what it was but it’s those small margins.
“I wasn’t watching the screen. At times like that we don’t watch the decision, we look to the next job. I loved it. We worked hard and were in control.
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“You can enjoy these games and playing with a smile on your face there’s no better feeling in the world. I’m glad to be back at Twickenham today and we dug really deep against the best.”