England are through to the World Cup final after a savage win over the All Blacks

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: England 19-7 New Zealand


Played – 42

England wins – 8

New Zealand wins – 33

Draws – 1

Did you know?

  • England are into their fourth World Cup final.
  • Kieran Read captained the All Blacks for the 51st time, equalling 1992-1997 All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick.
  • It was also Read’s 34 birthday today.
  • Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are the youngest flankers to ever start together in a Rugby World Cup knockout match, averaging 22 years and 107 days.
  • Ben Youngs and George Ford played together at nine and ten for the 33rd time for England – a high for England in the pro era.

In a nutshell

England are into the Rugby World Cup final after physically hammering and smothering the All Blacks.

Within the 19-7 win, the men in white dominated the turnover count, taking ball off New Zealand 16 times while the All Blacks only managed to snaffle it five times.

The defence was brutal and the All Blacks seemed shell-shocked for large parts of the game. Both teams got one try each, but while England’s was borne of front-foot ball and power running, New Zealand could only profit off one loose ball to score theirs and spent large parts of the game giving away penalties (11 to New Zealand to England’s six, in the end).

Manu Tuilagi scored the first try from a rare pick and go before the two-minute mark – according to Opta, it was the quickest the All Blacks have conceded in their World Cup history.

It all came from relentless, quick phases and the team thundered forward as Elliot Daly set Anthony Watson free up the touchline. Wave after wave of England runners came in and with Mako Vunipola dragging them ahead, then Courtney Lawes carrying to within a foot, the centre simply picked and dived.

Energised by the lightning-quick start, England began creating those turnovers. George Ford was ripping ball and momentum came at the breakdown. Maro Itoje was a constant menace, taking the ball out of Kieran Read’s hands and then swallowing it at an All Blacks maul, and Tom Curry grew in stature throughout the half, pinching it when the All Blacks were finally getting their act together.

England almost feasted off an interception too as Tuilagi intercepted a telegraphed Beauden Barrett pass and fed Owen Farrell, who quickly slipped it to Jonny May. He was eventually forced to cut inside by a corner-flagging Scott Barrett, and the pop to support was a dropped mess.

Related: The making of Kyle Sinckler

Eddie Jones’s side had a try ruled out for crossing as Kyle Sinckler let Tom Curry run a line and then slipped the ball to Sam Underhill, who went over unimpeded. New Zealand clung on.

Yet in the running skirmishes to come, the English forwards made more telling steals. Owen Farrell was not quite at 100%, spending some points limping but still throwing himself at the game as hard as possible. A long-range penalty on the stroke of half-time was left to Ford to take. He sent it over to make the score 10-0 at the break.

The fear at this stage was, was it enough? The All Blacks have rope-a-doped teams before…

Clearly their experiment with Scott Barrett at six didn’t work and Sam Cane came on at half-time. Still, England had another penalty in the Kiwi 22.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: England v New Zealand

Points on the board: Ardie Savea scores New Zealand’s try from a lineout malfunction (Getty Images)

With the angle unfavourable, they kicked to the corner. From the lineout England held it in and as All Blacks defenders drifted with Youngs and his backs, the scrum-half threw a half-dummy and slid through the gap to score. Or at least he thought he did. In the maul, the ball had been fumbled.

It’s normally at this juncture of a match you say to yourself, “It would be mad to write New Zealand off, even 13 points ahead.” And it looked like that bounce back could be on. Picking off a loose Jamie George lineout, Savea only had to catch it, take a few steps and spring over for a try that was converted by Richie Mo’unga. This is how their surges normally begin.

Related: Preview of Wales v South Africa

But nothing stops momentum like a thundercrack tackle and Underhill led the way back to the scoreboard as he obliterated Beauden Barrett, making him drop the ball. England started rolling hits together, with Itoje slamming into Sam Whitelock too and the team went marching back onto the front foot. New Zealand never found their way back again.

Ford would kick another penalty as Read was warned that the All Blacks were racking up too many infringements. They were sent scrambling and England were happy to let them play away in their own half. It was as emphatic a win as 19-7 can really ever be.

We now wait to see who will face the English in the final.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: England v New Zealand

Brutal: Maro Itoje, named Man of the Match, smashes into Anton Lienert-Brown (Getty Images)

Star man

Maro Itoje put in a display of World Cup savagery. He blew apart All Blacks plays, inhaled turnovers and brought relentless energy. He made three turnovers and won seven lineouts.

He can play on the edge – and he showed that around the 50-minute mark, as the All Blacks began coming back, when he gave away a penalty coming in from the side and lifted Ardie Savea’s leg – but you need his spoiling. And that can be a big positive when he backs himself to do something destructive.

In the 65th minute, he put a play-halting hit on Sam Whitelock after shooting out the line on halfway. The regular deputy to Read was subbed off two minutes later.

Itoje was rightly named Man of the Match.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: England v New Zealand

Unique line-up: England stood in a V shape to face New Zealand’s pre-match haka (Getty Images)

The verdict

England coach Eddie Jones: “We played against a great team today – Steve Hansen is a great coach, Kieran Read is a great captain and we had to dig deep. We knew we had to come off the line hard and keep taking away time and space and we managed to do that, cause a few errors and we maybe had a few lucky bounces and got the result.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen: “First of all I would like to congratulate England, they played a tremendous game of footy and on the day deserved to win the game. You can’t give them half a step because they’ll take it and, at the end of the day, that’s what rugby is about and well done to them.

“I’m really proud of our team, they have done a tremendous job for their country and just tonight we weren’t good enough, so we have to take that on the chin and so does everybody back home, our fans – all credit to England.

“You saw the boys, at the end they were still trying their guts out and that’s all you can ask, so I’m really proud of them. And thanks to Japan for a wonderful, wonderful tournament, really appreciate it.”

The teams

England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi (Jonathan Joseph 74), Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May (Henry Slade 44); George Ford, Ben Youngs (Willi Heinz 63); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler 70), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie 70), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole 46), Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (George Kruis), Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Mark Wilson 70), Billy Vunipola.

Try: Tuilagi 2. Con: Farrell. Pens: Ford 4 (40, 49, 63, 69).

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue (Sonny Bill Williams 55), Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge (Jordie Barrett 50); Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith (TJ Perenara 55); Joe Moody (Ofa Tuungafasi 63), Codie Taylor (Dane Coles 50), Nepo Laulala (Angus Ta’avao 53), Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock (Patrick Tuipulotu 67), Scott Barrett (Sam Cane 40), Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (capt).

Try: Savea 57. Con: Mo’unga.

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