This was the day when England took rugby to a new level.
Under the Yokohama night sky, Eddie Jones’ history boys produced one of the greatest performances in the history of professional rugby to book their place in the World Cup final.
‘Crash, bang, wallop,’ went the sound of the All Blacks being smashed off their pedestal and sent flying into next week.
Every All Black dropped to their haunches on the final whistle because they did not know what had just hit them. Bloodied, bruised, battered.
England players can hardly believe their achievement as they emerge as winners against favourites New Zealand
England captain Owen Farrell commiserates his New Zealand opponents after his team secured a vital win to reach the final
Eddie Jones’ men will be awaiting the winner of Wales or South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday in Yokohama
England fans were in high spirits after the team raced into an early lead and will now watch a first World Cup final since 2007
It is 12 years since New Zealand lost a game at a World Cup but, on this famous night in Yokohama, they had no answers.
It was a tactical masterclass. An exhibition of power and precision and turnovers and outright destruction at the gain line.
England will move onto next week’s final – against Wales or South Africa – as favourites. This was unstoppable.
On the 20-minute walk from Yokohama station to the stadium, street hawkers set up stalls selling New Zealand merchandise. Black shirts, black scarves, black everything. All Blacks billboards light up street corners in Tokyo, where they are firmly established as the nation’s second team. The All Blacks have, at times, been bigger than rugby itself but England laughed in the face of recent history.
Manu Tuilagi pushes through a crowd of New Zealand bodies and touches down for England’s first try after a fast start
‘Whoever wins this game will win the final… so make that three in a row for the All Blacks!!’ guffawed a New Zeland supporter, before the cocky Kiwis were sent packing.
Before kick-off, England set up a seven-metre wide channel down the touchline and had to smash their way through six forwards. Joe Marler grabbed Kyle Sinckler by the scruff of his t-shirt and revved him up with a few choice words, while Steve Hansen watched from the half-way line with his hands in his pockets.
For a team who are always on message of focussing on themselves, the All Blacks coach took a particularly keen interest in England’s preparations. Bish, bash, bosh down the tramlines; a sign of what was to come.
Tuilagi is swarmed by his team-mates after his early try as England made a huge impact on the game despite being underdogs
England spread out in a ‘V formation to defuse the haka. Nigel Owens tried to motion English players back as Joe Marler and Billy Vunipola, on the outside flanks, crept over the halfway line. Owen Farrell held his position at the rear with hands on hips, grinning like a smiling assassin. The All Blacks had to adapt their positions. England had snatched the initiative and never let it go.
This game had been given the big sell and it lived up to its billing in the first 98 seconds.
Maintaining the intensity from their preparations, England’s players came out flying. Step up the wrecking balls. Manu Tuilagi bashed up the first carry before Tom Curry followed his lead. Switching grace for grunt, Elliot Daly skipped around Richie Mo’unga and England used every inch of width on the pitch.
George Ford dispatches a penalty as England began to strengthen their grip on a place in the Rugby World Cup final
The players form into a V shape formation to stand up to the Kiwis before their dance after edging closer to their opponents
England stare down the intimidating Haka dance as New Zealand look to get the upper hand before the crunch semi-final
England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; Vunipola, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Lawes; Curry, Vunipola, Underhill.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Cole, Kruis, Wilson, Heinz, Slade, Joseph.
Tries: Tuilagi Pens: Ford (4) Con: Farrell
New Zealand: Barrett, Reece, Goodhue, Lienert-Brown, Bridge, Mo’unga, Smith, Read (c), Savea, Barrett, Whitelock, Retallick, Laulala, Taylor, Moody.
Replacements: Coles, Tuungafasi, Ta’avao, Tuipulotu, Cane, Perenara, Williams, Barrett.
Tries: Savea Con: Mo’unga
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Jamie George hugged the left touchline, accelerating into contact, before Courtney Lawes and Kyle Sinckler found ways to slip the ball out of the tackle. Left, right, left. Bish, bash bosh. Ben Youngs kept it all ticking, before Tuilagi dived over from close range. The dream start.
Minutes earlier, the stadium announcer called out the names of both teams before kick-off. There was warm applause for the English team – called out from 15 to 1 – before a rapturous reception to the first Kiwi name, Beauden Barrett. It was a Kiwi party but the English had taken over.
George Ford has spent his whole career facing questions about his size, but how he laughed in the questioners’ face when he ripped the ball from the clutch of prop Nepo Lualua in the tackle. Everything he touched turned to gold. Next up, his long kick forced rookie winger George Bridge to turn. By the time he had turned back, English kick-chasers were already foaming at the mouth.
The pace was breathless. In attack, Ford and Owen Farrell weaved patterns like a Japanese tapestry. Forwards kept the ball alive in contact to stitch phase after phase.
With Scott Barrett at six, New Zealand, they said, would have the advantage at the lineout. Back in 2014, Brodie Retallick could not name a single player in the England team. He referred to Courtney Lawes as ‘Michael’ – but there will be no mistaking his name after England’s locks stole ball after ball.
Lawes plucked the ball out of Sam Whitelock’s hands, before Itoje – all limbs and elbows – forced a turnover at the maul. ‘Oh Maro Itoje,’ chanted the English fans, who couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.
England could have won by a much bigger margin, but a try by Ben Youngs was ruled out by referee Nigel Owens
England almost moved further ahead. Underhill ran under the posts, but his try was ruled out after a blocking line by Curry.
A stroke of fortune for the Kiwis, but not a momentum swing. The world champions made mistakes in the face of England’s pressure, with the Kamikaze Kids – Curry and Underhill – on hand to punish every error.
Bridge was smashed into touch by Anthony Watson and the face of Steve Hansen appeared on the big screen. The Kiwi coach rarely appears flustered but his head dropped into his hands. New Zealand were rattled but the only saving grace was that England hadn’t scored more points.
Ford took over the kicking as Farrell grimaced through the first half after picking up a knock, but pushed a drop goal wide of the posts.
But Curry continued to boss the breakdown and, with some help from Tuilagi, won a turnover just before hale-time to allow Ford to extend the lead to 10.
Kiwis flanker Ardie Savea breaks through England’s resistance after the interval to put New Zealand back in the contest
Savea’s team-mates congratulate him after his try as New Zealand look to put England under pressure in Yokohama
‘New Zealand will come back, they always do,’ muttered the half-time cynics who had been there before.
Hansen sent on Sam Cane to help with the breakdown, but England continued to apply the pressure. Daly sent a penalty just wide after Whitelock blocked Youngs, but quickly regathered his composure. He turned over Barrett under the highball to give England territory, before Youngs eventually sniped over. But, again, the TMO intervened and England had a second try ruled out.
Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler both limped off, before English hearts were in mouths when a no arms challenge from replacement Henry Slade was sent for a referral. Slade escaped a yellow card but the Kiwis were fired up.
Maro Itoje competes with New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick at a line out as England look to close in on a hard-earned victory
England had a lineout on their own 5m line but George overthrew though Itoje’s fingers and Ardie Savea gathered the ball to score almost unopposed. One mistake, one try. England 13-7 All Blacks.
It took another trademark hit from Underhill – the biggest tackler at this World Cup – to give England some breathing space. He crunched Jordie Barrett in his own 22, forcing a knock on which eventually resulted in three more points for Ford.
England had 16 minutes to defend their lead. Time for the early summer days in Treviso – months back now – when England were sprinting and sweating and spewing to pay off.
George Ford was the hero from the tee as he hit four penalties to help England see off the huge threat from the Kiwis
New Zealand centre Anton Lienert-Brown is distraught as his heavily-backed team are dumped out of the competition
Delighted England players congratulate each other on their remarkable achievement as the Kiwi players lament the loss
England coach Eddie Jones has helped the team bounce back from a woeful 2015 tournament by guiding them to the final
For a split second, New Zealand had a chance to kick at goal. But Whitelock had shoved his palm into Farrell’s face in the act of winning the penalty. Farrell received treatment on the ground until replays were when on the big screen and Owens reversed his decision. Gamesmanship? We may never know.
More penalties, more points for Ford. England gradually moved out of sight. Their finishers came on and ground New Zealand into a black and white dust.
It triggered an English party, singing Oasis under the night sky, but the party is only just getting started.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen shows good sportsmanship by wishing England well for their World Cup final next week