One Year ago today, England dethroned New Zealand with a magnificent performance in Yokohama to set up a final against South Africa. Manu Tuilagi's early try set the tone as England shattered New Zealand's hopes of winning an unprecedented third consecutive Rugby World Cup and moved into the final with a famous 19-7 victory.
England dominated the out-of-sorts All Blacks at International Stadium Yokohama to set up a showdown with South Africa or Wales at the same venue next weekend. Tuilagi touched down for a try that Owen Farrell converted inside two minutes and George Ford's penalty just before the break put Eddie Jones' inspired side 10-0 up at half-time.
The defending champions never really got going in an error-strewn display and although Ardie Savea's try gave them hope, another three penalties from the excellent Ford kept England in command. England – who also had tries from Sam Underhill and Ben Youngs ruled out – were lively in attack and outstanding in defence, sealing a first win over New Zealand for seven years and a maiden World Cup triumph over the holders to replace them at the top of the rankings.
New Zealand's first World Cup loss since 2007 ensured there will be no dream swansong for head coach Steve Hansen, while captain Kieran Read will end his stellar Test career with a third-place play-off. England made a statement by forming a V to face the Haka and backed that up with a blistering start, which was rewarded with a Tuilagi try.
Anthony Watson scampered away down the right wing and the centre dived over from close range after a huge carry from Courtney Lawes, with Farrell adding the extras. England were relentless in a breathless start, throwing the ball around with confidence and Scott Barrett did well to haul Jonny May back after a stray pass from his brother, Beauden, was intercepted by the alert Tuilagi.
Underhill had a try chalked off when Tom Curry was penalised for obstruction and Ford missed a drop-goal attempt as England remained on the front foot. England continued to dominate the breakdown, with Maro Itoje outstanding, and Ford was on target from the tee to give them a deserved a 10-point advantage just before half-time, with Farrell troubled by a leg injury.
Sam Cane replaced Scott Barrett at the break and a long-range Elliot Daly penalty drifted just wide in a frantic start to the second half before a Youngs score was disallowed for a knock-on in a maul. Henry Slade and Dan Cole came on for limping duo May and Kyle Sinckler as the tournament favourites continued to spill the ball under immense pressure from a well-drilled England team.
Ford's second penalty extended England's lead, but New Zealand were given hope when they finally got on the board with a gift of a try for Savea, Jamie George's throw at a lineout providing him with the simplest of finishes after 57 minutes.
Richie Mo'unga added the extras but another Ford penalty put England nine points to the good after the All Blacks defended desperately to deny them a second try and the fly-half bisected the posts again with 11 minutes to go as New Zealand lost their grip on the Webb Ellis Cup.
England nail the set-piece to win the 'war'
All Blacks assistant head coach Ian Foster said the set-piece would be key to winning the semi-final "war".
It was England who came out on top in that battle, winning 21 to New Zealand's 13. Hansen's decision to pick Scott Barrett ahead of Sam Cane did not pay off, with New Zealand only stealing two lineouts – one of which was due to a rare George error.
Itoje immense, recalled Ford assured
Lock Itoje was named man of the match after claiming three of an incredible 16 turnovers against a side that so rarely squander possession, as well as seven lineouts.
England were relentless in a brilliant team performance from start to finish, fly-half Ford also starring on his return to the starting line-up as New Zealand were simply unable to live with the new top-ranked side in the world.
Key Opta Facts
- New Zealand had won a record 18 consecutive World Cup matches before England prevented them from making history.
- Tuilagi's opening try came after just 98 seconds, the earliest New Zealand have conceded in a World Cup match.
- Sam Whitelock lost a World Cup match for the first time in his career.
- New Zealand were kept scoreless in the first half of a World Cup match for just the second time – the other coming against Australia at the quarter-final stage in 1991.