YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Even before the kickoff, England stole a march on defending champion New Zealand.
Respect for customary All Blacks practice? Not in this Rugby World Cup semifinal.
Reserve prop Joe Marler wasn’t the only England player standing on New Zealand’s side of halfway when the All Blacks performed their famous pre-match haka on Saturday, but he didn’t retreat to his own side even when a match official gestured to him about his breach of convention.
After shocking the two-time defending champions with a try to Manu Tuilagi in the second minute, England didn’t retreat one bit. And four years after being unceremoniously dumped out in the group stage of the World Cup it was hosting, England reached its first final in 12 years with a 19-7 upset over New Zealand.
The All Blacks hadn’t lost a World Cup game since that tournament in 2007, had never lost to England at a World Cup, went into the game on a six-game winning streak in head-to-heads and having won 15 of the last 16.
All those streaks are off. England’s Australian coach Eddie Jones had spoken all week in the leadup to the semifinals of how vulnerable the All Blacks were as the hot favorites, despite describing them as the best team in sport. Jones strikes again.
He coached Australia to the 2003 final which ended in an extra-time loss to England — so far the Northern Hemisphere’s only Rugby World Cup crown.
Jones was a consultant on South Africa’s
win, sealed with a win over England in the final, guided Japan to a shocking win over Japan at the last World Cup and has now got England to the final.
New Zealand came back from 15-0 down to win the last meeting 16-15, but this time England didn’t give them a chance. And that included two tries disallowed by the Television Match Official.
England will next play the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between two-time champion South Africa and Wales. Four years ago, no northern teams reached the semis. This time, teams from the north have at least a 50-50 shot of winning it.
England was never behind after scoring a second-minute converted try through center Tuilagi, which Owen Farrell converted. Flyhalf George Ford kicked four penalties.
New Zealand was overwhelmed in almost every aspect of the game, with even its try coming from an England mistake when Jamie George overthrew at a lineout. Ardie Savea collected and crossed the line.
New Zealand will have to play off for bronze in what will be Steve Hansen’s last match in charge.
It will be a tough loss to come back from.