England produced one of the great Rugby World Cup performances to stun defending champions New Zealand 19-7 and book their place in the final for the first time since 2007.
The Red Rose will face either South Africa or Wales in next Saturday’s final and having destroyed the favourites, they will be expected to repeat their solitary triumph of 16 years ago.
Here are the key talking points from a classic:
A sensational performance.
From Manu Tuilagi’s early try after just 100 seconds, England looked confident, dominant and not overawed by the big occasion.
The Red Rose played with total pace and control, putting their opponents down right areas of the park and forcing them into mistakes.
They showed serious physicality, energy and were effective in defence. It’s defence that wins matches and from this platform, England were able to create attacking opportunities and keep possession.
Eddie Jones’ side made 16 turnovers in comparison to New Zealand’s five and have only conceded three tries in this tournament so far.
The only time New Zealand had the slightest sniff was on turnover ball and one or two opportunities in the second half. The only problem was the All Blacks were turned over too many times themselves by the likes of Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje.
From set-piece, England sparkled, winning 18 of their 20 lineouts, while pinching two of their opponents’ throws. There was one error for New Zealand’s try, but it was a rare blemish.
It was a serious display by England and now sets them up for a chance to win a first Webb Ellis trophy since 2003.
NEW ZEALAND OFF THE PACE
In contrast to the England’s titanic performance, New Zealand didn’t come close to performing as well as last weekend’s win over Ireland.
They failed to gain a foothold in the contest and only registered their first points after 57 minutes through a lucky Ardie Savea try.
They lacked creativity in attack and struggled in defence for large spells of the game, conceding too many turnovers (15) and unable to break down England’s granite-like defence.
They couldn’t hold on to the ball, handing possession back to England with aimless kicks, making half passes that didn’t need to be made and struggling with ill-discipline at times.
It was the power game also that New Zealand failed to live with as the strong carrying of Billy and Mako Vunipola, and Tuilagi, caused problems for their defence all day.
It’s a disappointing end to the tournament for the All Blacks but the better team prevailed in Yokohama.
RED ROSE STARS
On a magical day for the English, there were stars spread right across the field.
The “Kamikaze Kids” – Tom Curry and Sam Underhill – were outstanding all evening, making key turnovers and tackles and continuing their voracious form in the tournament.
It was Underhill’s crunching tackle on Jordie Barrett that stands out most, earning England a commanding nine point lead for the final quarter.
The Vunipola brothers, although quiet at times, made a stunning 31 carries between them and their trademark runs knocked opponents over like pins in a bowling alley.
As well as calmly managing the game, passing superbly and firing over 12 points, George Ford was England’s joint-top tackler with 15.
Owen Farrell, clearly struggling with an injury during the first half, also made 15 tackles but lost the ball twice in formidable attacking positions.
And while Tuilagi capped off a fine performance with a try, it was Itoje who shone brightest, deservedly winning man of the match for his remarkable contribution of eight carries, 12 tackles and three turnovers.
The Saracens man was a constant menace at the breakdown, superb in the lineout and made big tackles at key times. It’s hard to believe he is still only 24.
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