England’s fly-half George Ford (right) passes the ball during the World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand on Saturday. Reuters
George Ford steered England to a stunning 19-7 win over New Zealand at the rugby World Cup semi-finals on Saturday. The victory also ended defending Champions All Blacks’ eight-year reign at the showpiece event, which they have dominated unanimously in the last two editions.
Ford stepped up to lead the charge as England captain Owen Farrell took a knock but he landed four penalty attempts after Manu Tuilagi had stunned the All Blacks with an early try.
This was for the first time that the All Blacks were defeated in a World cup game following their shock loss to France in the 2007 quarters.
England’s also booked spot in the final with their first victory over the All Blacks just four years after their embarrassing first-round ejection on the home turf.
“Our best form of attack is our defence. We create opportunities through our defence to attack,” said England coach Eddie Jones, who has masterminded the turnaround.
“I’d like to pay the greatest compliment to New Zealand. They’ve won two World Cups in a row. They’ve been a really great team and and we had to dig really deep to beat them.”
England, world champions in 2003 when they beat an Australia side coached by Jones in the final, will now face the winners of Sunday’s match between South Africa and Wales in next week’s showpiece clash.
The shock loss also marked the end of a stellar tenure of coach Steve Hansen as he is set to relinquish the post with an impressive record of just 10 defeats form 106 games.
“I’m really proud of our team. They’ve done a tremendous job for their country and tonight we just weren’t good enough,” said Hansen.
England led 10-0 at the break thanks to Tuilagi’s converted try and the first of Ford’s penalties after a superb forward effort led by locks Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje saw them dominate territory and possession.
Another Ford penalty early in the second half made it 13-0 but the All Blacks eventually broke a defence coached by former New Zealand boss John Mitchell in the 57th minute, when Ardie Savea crashed over for a converted try.
But Sam Underhill’s tackle on the recalled Scott Barrett led to a simple penalty in front of the posts that Ford duly kicked.
Jones had recalled Ford at fly-half following the 40-16 quarter-final win over Australia, moving Farrell to inside centre. Before kick-off England, unusually, lined up in an inverted ‘V’ formation, crossing the half-way line as the All Blacks performed their traditional pre-match haka.
And there were fewer than two minutes on the clock when England scored a brilliant team try.
Fullback Elliot Daly made a fine break down the right that was carried on by wing Anthony Watson before the ball was worked across field, with hooker Jamie George charging forward.
- Disallowed tries - Ford then found prop Kyle Sinckler and he in turn released Lawes, who took the ball to the All Blacks’ line. From the ensuing ruck, powerhouse centre Tuilagi forced his way between guard props Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala for a fine try.
Farrell converted and England led 7-0.
They almost had a second try minutes later when Tuilagi intercepted and found Farrell who passed to Jonny May.
But great corner-flagging by recalled flanker Scott Barrett stopped the wing in his tracks.
England made several more early visits to New Zealand’s 22 only for their own errors to cost them the chance of further points.
Underhill, who had a try against New Zealand last year controversially disallowed, went over in the 25th minute but referee Nigel Owens correctly ruled out the score for crossing by fellow flanker Tom Curry in the build-up.
Ford’s drop goal attempt sailed well wide of the right post but he made no mistake with a 45-metre penalty after a limping Farrell was unable to take the shot. England thought they had their second try when, following a drive off an attacking line-out, scrum-half Ben Youngs went over after selling centre Anton Lienert-Brown a dummy.
But Owens ruled it out for a knock-on in the maul.
Another Ford penalty extended the lead but George’s overthrown line-out near England’s line was collected by Savea, with fly-half Richie Mo’unga converting.
That, however, was as close as New Zealand got as two more Ford penalties created an unbridgeable gap for the defending champions.
England coach Eddie Jones heads into a World Cup semi-final against New Zealand taking inspiration from legendary football manager Alex Ferguson. Saturday’s fixture in Yokohama
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