England celebrate their victory. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Upsets don't come much bigger than this. But three quick
tries sealed the deal as England ran away with an historic
38-21 thrashing of the All Blacks. The loss was the first for
the All Blacks on a European tour since 2002.
It's hard to imagine a more unlikely storyline unfolding.
This was an England team coming off the back of consecutive
losses to Australia and South Africa. They were hurting and
that had to count for something, but their lack of form was
always going to make New Zealand a near impossible task.
In contrast the All Blacks entered with an undefeated record
over their past 20 games. Only on occasion during that
stretch had they looked like losing, being a class above the
rest. Surely this final match was merely a formality.
Well it just goes to show that sports doesn't always go to
plan. England brought an outstanding game, showing
physicality, breakdown skill and were clinical in handing the
All Blacks one of their worst ever defeats.
In contrast the All Blacks appeared flustered, under pressure
for large parts of the game and unable to gain any momentum.
Their basic skills for once let them down, as passes went
astray and the usually immaculate hands weren't there. The
spark that normally ignites this team seemed to be missing
and for large periods they failed to threaten.
It was England who controlled the game from the start, as the
All Blacks were sucked into a kicking duel which deprived
them of the opportunity to attack the English defence. They
didn't do this well either and found themselves scoreless
after 40 minutes of rugby.
When they did attack they were met with a steely defence that
held strong for the entire first half. It seemed no matter
what they threw at England, it would be repelled and it was
clear the alarm bells were beginning to ring.
England only grew in confidence, feeding off the energy of
the crowd and kicking four goals through the accurate boot of
Owen Farrell to take a 12-0 lead at the break. Notably Daniel
Carter missed two kicks relatively handy to the posts in this
time, points which could have significantly changed the way
the second half played out.
Another Farrell penalty saw England take an unprecedented
15-0 lead a minute after the break and it appeared that an
upset may have genuinely been on the cards.
But the All Blacks are world champions for a reason and over
the next ten minutes they would mount a furious comeback.
Cory Jane showed his class as he cut the defence to pieces
three times, two of which led to tries, the first to Julian
Savea and the second to Kieran Read. Carter kicked both
conversions to make it a one point ball game.
The All Blacks were back and it seemed they would gain the
lead and run away with it.
But it doesn't always quite work like that and the next ten
minutes would rank amongst the finest in England rugby
history and showed why they were deserved winners.
Two defensive blunders from the New Zealanders saw both
England midfielders gain the opportunity to make breaks and
through good support play both led to tries. Just minutes
later a Manu Tuilagi intercept saw a third try was scored and
with the score at 32-14 the All Blacks were trouble.
The final 20 minutes saw the All Blacks continue to throw the
kitchen sink at their opponents, but were met with a
determined rushed defence that kept fighting right until the
end. A late consolation try was scored as Julian Savea
grabbed a double, but that was far from comforting for a
distraught All Blacks team.
In terms of the biggest upsets of all time this would
certainly rate up there with the best of them. It wasn't just
the fact that England won, it was the way they won.
They forced panic into a normally slick All Blacks team and
found holes in what has been an outstanding defence all
season. To go with this they showed a ten minute spell of
running rugby that is rarely seen from the men in white,
making it a particularly memorable outing.
England's forward pack were simply outstanding. Dan Coles was
the best of the tight forwards, proving strong at scrum time
and was influential at the breakdown. The looseforward trio
were also brilliant, tackling well and constantly beat the
All Blacks to the ball at ruck time.
Ben Youngs provided good service at the base, whilst Owen
Farrell outside him gave a very balanced performance and was
heroic with his boot.
Manu Tuilagi was the chief destroyer on attack, proving
incisive in the second half, whilst midfield partner Brad
Barritt was also prominent.
For the All Blacks there wasn't a lot to write home about.
They looked good in patches, particularly in the first ten
minutes of the second half.
Other than that they were a team that looked every bit like
one at the end of a long season. The error rate was too high,
too many penalties were conceded and they were unable to gain
ascendency up front.
The scrum struggled from the get go, whilst the lineout
gained parity at best. Not enough players being committed to
the breakdowns and when they were they were too slow getting
there. They went backwards too often at the contact
situations and consequently the backs had no platform to work
Unsurprisingly then, the backs struggled. Cory Jane was
dangerous running and did little wrong, whilst Julian Savea
looked for work and was rewarded with two tries.
Other than this it really was a mixed bag, as both
midfielders had their moments of brilliance as well as their
moments of disaster. Daniel Carter had a game to forget
reminding us he is in fact human, whilst Aaron Smith
struggled with the messy ball he received.
The loss will undoubtedly hurt New Zealand. Their bid to
break the world record for longest undefeated streak has been
broken and with comes the end of their dream to complete an
But you can't begrudge England. Not one bit. They were
outstanding. Few teams beat the All Blacks. Even fewer do it
comprehensively. Only once have they lost by a greater margin
than 17 points and only four times has a team scored more
than 38 points against them.
It was a truly memorable performance. One that will go down
as one of the best in England rugby history.