ENG 19-7 NZ: Talking points as England reach the 2019 World Cup finals
As New Zealand performed the haka and threw down the challenge to England, Owen Farrell stood out there with a smirk.
The England captain was in the middle of the chevron that the English had formed to face the haka.
With his arms on his hips and that smirk, you could say that Farrell had channeled his inner Dr. Strange. Of all the million timelines, he had seen the one where England had beaten the All Blacks.
Unfortunately for the All Blacks, that timeline happened to be the one we’re part of.
England outclassed defending champions New Zealand, 19-7, in Yokohama, to become the first finalists of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. This also happened to be the All Blacks’ first Rugby World Cup loss since 2007.
From the first whistle to the last, England appeared to be more energetic than the All Blacks. In fact, Eddie Jones’ men got on the scoreboard in under two minutes. Recycling possession five meters from the try zone, England scored as Manu Tuilagi powered through to get the points.
More impressive than the try was the buildup as Jones’ side engaged in the slick, free-flowing offense that they’re proponents of.
Sam Underhill scored another try for England in the 25th minute. That, however, was cancelled as a TMO review showed that Tom Curry, whose decoy run drew defenders and opened space for Underhill, was offside.
Right before half-time, New Zealand conceded a penalty that was scored by George Ford to give England a 10-0 lead.
While the All Blacks did score a try in the second half, their indiscipline cost them. Steve Hansen’s men conceded four penalties in the second period – three of which were scored. This never allowed the All Blacks to come back into the game, despite England not having a significant lead. The penalty that hurt the most was the one in the 60th minute – seven minutes after New Zealand had scored a try to make it 13-7.
Jones out-coached Hansen as England knew how to break New Zealand’s efficient system. A look at the turnover stat shows how well Maro Itoje and the Kamikaze kids read New Zealand’s plays.
For England, this is the first Rugby World Cup final since 2007 as they look to win their second title. For New Zealand, who could have won all three World Cups of the 2010s, it’s back to the drawing board to prepare for what’s to come, four years from now.
Itoje and the Kamikaze kids spearhead England’s suffocating defense
If there’s a stat that shows how poor New Zealand were today, it’s their 19 turnovers.
Much of that was due to the impressive, and intense, defensive work by England.
At the heart of it were the Kamikaze kids, Curry and Underhill, and Itoje.
Curry and Underhill did some great work in the rucks and the scrums, as they forced New Zealand into committing mistakes. The tandem also did well to constrict the All Blacks’ attacking forays, combining for a total of 19 tackles. They were ably supported by George Ford, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell. The trio executed 15, 12 and 15 tackles respectively.
Itoje was the best player on the pitch for the 80 minutes as he gave a performance for the ages. He came up big with 12 tackles but his best work was in the lineouts, as he stole two of the All Blacks’ lineouts.
New Zealand’s predictability and lack of flair costs them
Under pressure from England, the All Blacks were keen to kick the ball out to gain territory in the first half.
The idea behind that was that they would steal England’s lineouts and then go for the kill.
That strategy failed miserably, thanks to the work done by Itoje.
England dominated their set-pieces, winning 18 of their 20 lineouts. The two lost lineouts were in the second half, with the first one resulting in an All Blacks try.
Jones had done some great work in making his squad familiar with New Zealand’s plays. It showed on the pitch as England read New Zealand like a kindergarten book and stopped the All Blacks in their tracks.
New Zealand's players, while advancing with the ball, looked too regimented for their own good. You could predict who would embark on dummy runs and who would move the ball.
England read this well and constricted space for the All Blacks such that they were only able to operate on the wings. Out there, Anthony Watson did well to force the New Zealanders out of the playing field.
This is in stark contrast to the flair that England displayed while carrying the ball. The opening try was due to some slick passing. Even the two disallowed tries displayed England’s superb playmaking.
New Zealand’s indiscipline was the final nail in the coffin
The All Blacks’ lack of offensive flair was compounded by the squad’s indiscipline.
At 13-7, Hansen’s men were well within making a comeback.
Instead, penalties rained like confetti and England were able to go from a nervous seven-point lead to a safe 19-7 scoreline.
New Zealand conceded 11 penalties in all, as compared to England’s six. The bigger issue, however, was that five of those 11 penalties were conceded by the All Blacks, close to their own goal.
Ford, who took penalties in place of a visibly injured Farrell, embraced the opportunity with open arms. The fly-half converted four of his five penalty kicks and took center-stage in extending and consolidating England’s lead in the game.
New Zealand were upstaged by England in all departments today, but discipline is something they would clearly want to improve as they literally doled out free points to their opponents.
Cover image credits: Demand News