It’s officially Rugby World Cup final week - what a time to be alive.
England bossed and bashed the All Blacks 19-7 in one of their most dominant performances ever. Here’s how they did it:
England had to be at its very defensive best on Saturday. Even though they lost, the Kiwis still made more metres (639 to 406) than England and had more runs (154 to 147).
The All Blacks also beat more defenders, had more clean breaks and made seven more offloads. But, crucially, England was dominant at the breakdown and with mauls, and worked itself harder than ever.
It pilfered 15 turnovers to just four for New Zealand. England actually missed more tackles than the All Blacks, but made up for it with how it intimidated and closed down the Kiwi attack. Their line speed was impressive and they choked the life out of the world champions.
Sam Underhill topped the stats with 16 tackles, while Mario Itoje and Owen Farrell made 15, and even George Ford chipping with 13. England’s intent and physicality was enormous.
Their discipline was also exceptional, giving away just six penalties compared with 11 from the All Blacks. All in all it was a heroic defensive performance several years in the making.
England had a lot more variety and creativity with Ford at 10 and Farrell at inside centre. That pairing is England’s most damaging and showed the All Blacks that the Red Rose would not just kick all day but run the ball and ask them questions with their carries.
Ford and Farrell worked perfectly together and England used its pick and go expertly. Offloads kept the New Zealand defence alert and Ben Youngs at 9 kept targeting the fringes of the ruck. Only the video referee stopped Youngs from scoring a vital try and the scrum-half had a whale of a game.
It was controversial but effective, as England targeted the haka with a V-shape formation instead of the usual flat approach of standing arm in arm. They even went so close the officials tried to shuffle them back. It was aggressive and unconventional, but seemed to confuse the All Blacks as they got off to a slow start. France did the same against them in the 2011 World Cup final and it worked too.
It showed that England would not let New Zealand have it all their own way. "New Zealand are the gods of rugby so we had to take it to them and put them on the back foot as much as we could," England coach Eddie Jones said after the game. It certainly did that.
Having two quality kickers in the starting XV in Ford and Farrell gave England so many options. Their kicking was on target and they made 37 kicks compared to New Zealand’s 28. They made a lot more metres with their kicks – 873 compared with 624 – and didn’t have any charged down, while the All Blacks had two blocked.
This meant England dominated the territory game and made it difficult for the Kiwis to gain field position. Attacking from deep constantly can be wearing, and it certainly was for the 2015 World Cup holders on Saturday.
England’s set-piece has always been a strength and it was on fire in the semi-final. They did not lose a scrum when it had the feed, and their lineout had a 90% success rate with 18 out of 20 throws going to their target. They also managed two lineout steals as well.
There was one mistake, with Jamie George’s throw finding Ardie Savea for his try. But England recovered and it was too little too late for the All Blacks.