England vs New Zealand - Rugby World Cup 2019 semi-final: Manu Tuilagi try inspires epic upset

England 19-7 New Zealand: Eddie Jones's side prevailed in a gripping contest in Yokohama

Jack Rathborn,Tom Kershaw
Saturday 26 October 2019 09:03 BST
England fans celebrate win over New Zealand as they enter Rugby World Cup final

England stunned New Zealand with a gruelling 19-7 victory in Yokohama to advance to the final of the Rugby World Cup.

Manu Tuilagi’s second-minute try set the tone against the champions with Eddie Jones’s side leaving the All Blacks reeling.

Ben Youngs and Sam Underhill had tries chalked off by the TMO before Ardie Savea cut their lead.

But the boot of George Ford kept England out of reach to prevail and reach next Saturday’s final against Wales or South Africa.

Here are five things we learned from an epic match in Yokohama.

1. Haka provides ultimate drama

The tone was set for the most spectacular theatre in sport as England faced up to New Zealand’s haka.

The intensity of the moment, a gripping one made all the more compelling when England formed a V-formation in response.

The grin from Owen Farrell displayed composure and confidence ahead of an almighty battle. It framed the contest perfectly, ensuring the excitement spilled over just as the first whistle sounded.

New Zealand’s players perform the haka
New Zealand’s players perform the haka (AFP via Getty Images)

2. Fast start leaves All Blacks reeling

Eddie Jones’s side stormed out of the blocks with a sensational 98-second spell of possession that left the All Blacks in a deep, thought-provoking huddle after conceding the lead..

Magnificent offloads denied the All Blacks a chance to reset, with Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes involved in the sweeping move.

A bulldozer-like finish from Manu Tuilagi forced a regroup from the champions, who were forced into a sloppy start, including George Bridge’s clumsy kick. This was the ideal start for England.

England made a fast start against the All Blacks
England made a fast start against the All Blacks (REUTERS)

3. High stakes match hinges on TMO decisions

A game of fine margins with England surging into an early lead could not help but attract controversy and deep discussion on the TMO’s decisions.

First it was Sam Underhill, whose jubilation was rightfully short-lived. Tom Curry acted as the decoy runner, denying Sam Whitelock the chance to get to Kyle Sinckler, who utilised the basketball-like pick play to feed Underhill.

Then it was Ben Youngs in the second half, another score chalked off for England, though this one was more controversial and only overturned after a microscopic spot. Nigel Owens carefully explained the ball was nudged forward in the maul, delivering a cruel blow to England.

Though they would later receive a reprieve despite a stern examination from the TMO; Henry Slade’s shoulder charge on Sevu Reece was deemed fair enough, despite suspicion that he may have wrapped his arm in the tackle.

Youngs celebrates before his try is chalked off (AFP via Getty)
Youngs celebrates before his try is chalked off (AFP via Getty) (AFP via Getty Images)

4. England’s irrepressible fight

New Zealand were supposed to emerge for the second half like a wounded animal. England had rocked and out-rucked, even out-leapt at the line-outs Steve Hansen’s side had so pointedly targeted. For each inch that Eddie Jones’ side played brilliantly, they had strangled the myth of the All Blacks far from reality.

But, when the inevitable fightback came, an early charge, a quick cycling through the backline that had until then been so deflated, England acted so quickly to extinguish it. Ben Youngs cunningly won a penalty off Sam Whitelock, only for Elliot Daly’s long-range kick to slice wide off the posts and leave a lingering doubt. Youngs then bundled over the tryline, only for a microscopic forward pass in the maul to suck the life out of England’s roaring celebrations. Every minute closer to victory came with a caveat, but even after Ardie Savea crossed the line and the All Blacks finally stirred a true wave of momentum, England’s resistance was impenetrable and united from the first minute until the last.

England battled hard to overcome the All Blacks (AFP via Getty)
England battled hard to overcome the All Blacks (AFP via Getty) (AFP via Getty Images)

5. England stands at gates of history

It’s been 12 years since England last reached the final, 12 years since New Zealand started to lose. The nerves should have been on the other foot. Yet, as the match reached its conclusion and the gates of history opened, it was the All Blacks, the world’s most certain side, who panicked, whose hands betrayed them, who saw the 100-plus-cap experience of Whitelock slap out at Farrell.

Everyone believed England would crumble in the face of this adversity, but the fall never came and now, surely, after dethroning the champions, they are ready to carve an era of their own.

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