Phenomenal. England were simply phenomenal on Saturday as a whirlwind performance swept the All Blacks aside in Yokohama. Eddie Jones’ men have reached their fourth World Cup final and first since 2007, progressively improving as the tournament has gone on.
An early score from Manu Tuilagi helped the Red Roses to establish a sizeable lead over New Zealand, which appeared to have grown greater when Sam Underhill crossed the whitewash. However, both he and Ben Youngs were denied tries by the TMO, before a botched lineout allowed Ardie Savea to reignite the contest.
It mattered not, with George Ford’s accuracy from the tee sealing a famous 19-7 triumph over the two-time defending champions. Here’s how each member of the England team got on.
Mako Vunipola – 9
There wasn’t a single error from Mako in a virtuoso showing from the loosehead, who excelled in every area of the game. His enormous tally of 16 carries was essential to England getting on the front foot as they bludgeoned through the All Blacks defence.
Jamie George – 7
For the most part, George was at his usual brilliant best. Of course, that error at the lineout wasn’t entirely his fault, but it could have undone all of his side’s work against the World Cup holders. Fortunately, it had no impact on the result; Jones will hope there’s no repeat in the final.
Kyle Sinckler – 8
Like his propping partner, Sinckler was used to wonderful effect as his aggression and power stole precious metres for the English. Injury ended his evening early, with supporters now anxiously awaiting news of how serious the problem is.
Courtney Lawes – 9
Lawes demonstrated precisely why Jones selected him ahead of the equally-capable George Kruis on Saturday, offering his fierce defence and purposeful running to bully the All Blacks. They had no answer for the intensity of the England’s second rows.
Maro Itoje – 10 (MOTM)
In almost every single one of his 36 international tests – barring the year of 2018 – Itoje has been exceptional for his side. And yet, his display versus the Kiwis stands out amongst all of those performances; it was his finest hour on a rugby field.
Tom Curry – 9
Curry was everywhere at Yokohama International Stadium. The All Blacks weren’t given a moment’s rest by the flankers, whose tenacity, speed of thought, and terrifying skillset ensured his opponents couldn’t gain a foothold in the contest.
Sam Underhill – 9
After Savea’s try had handed New Zealand a lifeline, Underhill’s response was inspiring. Steve Hansen’s men couldn’t build any momentum against a defiant England backline, which was led by the Bath flanker. He was his country’s top tackler, with his shuddering hit on Jordie Barrett showing every single viewer which team was in charge.
Billy Vunipola – 8
Far and away Billy’s strongest display in Japan. In 17 carries, the behemoth made 35 metres, whilst his defence was similarly impressive. He epitomises the way England have grown as the tournament has gone on.
Ben Youngs – 7
Youngs was unlucky to have his score chalked off, but generally gave a good account of himself in such a pressurised environment. There were a couple of dodgy moments for the scrum-half, though nothing to be too concerned about in an otherwise-convincing evening.
George Ford – 9
Ford wanted to be given more responsibility, was handed it by Jones, and rewarded his coach for doing so. His kicking was immaculate, the 26-year-old racking up the points from the tee and keeping the Kiwis penned back in their own territory.
Jonny May – 7
We didn’t get to witness the true abilities of May as he continues his recovery from a minor hamstring issue. That doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute to the victory, however, with his aerial prowess again on full display for all to see.
Owen Farrell – 8
If the Red Roses were to conquer the mighty All Blacks, they were going to need several leaders to stand up and take the game to their opponents. Farrell was always going to be one of those leading the England charge, punching holes in the backline and scything down anything that came his way.
Manu Tuilagi – 9
What a beautiful sight it is to see Tuilagi pick his line and clatter into defences. Whether you support Jones’ team or not, you have to admit it’s been a shame for the sport that Manu’s career has been hampered by injuries. He made up for lost time with an all-round marvellous showing that left New Zealand rocking and reeling.
Anthony Watson – 8
91 metres gained demonstrates the electric pace Watson possesses. Give him a yard and he’ll give you hell. George Bridge found that out the hard way as the fleet-footed winger left him looking foolish.
Elliot Daly – 8
When kicking out-of-hand, Daly was spot on. When the fullback was asked to take down a Kiwi runner, he did so with aplomb. When he zipped away from the clutches of Richie Mo’unga, he set up a try that launched an unforgettable night for England.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
The Exeter Chiefs icon only entered proceedings on 70 minutes, yet asserted himself well, picking up where George had left off.
Joe Marler – 7
Another who came on for a brief cameo and maintained England’s control of the encounter.
Dan Cole – 7
Sinckler’s withdrawal saw Cole come on ahead of schedule. That was no issue for the veteran as he busied himself around the field of play.
George Kruis – 8
England had to kill off New Zealand following Savea’s score and Kruis was integral to them doing so. He obliterated one All Black runner and stopped numerous others dead in their tracks.
Mark Wilson – 8
Wilson’s turnover in the final ten minutes came at a decisive time in the match; had the English conceded rather than won the ball back, we may have had a very different story.
Willi Heinz – 7
Heinz did everything that was needed to keep England ticking over and strangle the life from New Zealand.
Henry Slade – 8
Sevu Reece seemed set to reduce the deficit until some heroic defending from Slade denied him. The importance of the centre’s tackle cannot be overstated.
Jonathan Joseph – n/a
By Ed Alexander