27 Oct 2019

'I've never seen an All Blacks team so thoroughly outplayed' - RWC reporter

12:56 pm on 27 October 2019

England were on another level compared with the All Blacks, superior in every facet of the game and deserved to win by a wider margin, says Joe Porter, RNZ's Rugby World Cup reporter.

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Photo: AFP

Porter says he has never seen an All Blacks Test like it with England dominating every facet of the game; the lineout, the scrum, the breakdown, the collisions as they beat the All Blacks 19-7 in the Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama last night.

"At halftime I knew the All Blacks were done. England had made all the play and the All Blacks seemingly had no answer to their impregnable defence. England were simply on another level.

"The All Blacks couldn't match England's physicality and had no answers to the English game plan. The All Blacks didn't appear to have a plan B and plan A sure as hell wasn't working.

"The breakdown was particularly hard to watch. The England loosies were all over the All Blacks and each time the defending champs threatened to break out or string some phases together, the English pack would turn the ball over or force the All Blacks into giving away a penalty.

"England were tenacious, determined and cohesive. The All Blacks were never really in it."

He said the All Blacks' backline was completely negated by the forwards' inability to get any kind of parity with the English pack.

Sports reporter Bridget Tunnicliffe said it was a frustrating watch.

"It felt like the All Blacks were playing under water or playing on sand. No matter what they did they couldn't get any traction. They were trying but couldn't play the game how they wanted to."

Josie Tada and Joe Porter on a bus in Japan.

Joe Porter pictured in Tokyo with Josie Tada earlier in the tournament. Porter says he knew by halftime the All Blacks dream of a cup three-peat was gone. Photo: RNZ / Joe Porter

Clay Wilson, RNZ's sport reporter also covering the RWC in Japan, said he can't recall ever watching an All Blacks' loss and being so completely convinced the better team won.

He said it was not surprising to see England start the match so well - but he would not have predicted they would sustain it for the entire match.

"England dominated the physical exchanges, with and without the ball. They didn't consistently make errors like the All Blacks did. They won the all-important set piece battle, pinching New Zealand lineout ball and having the upper hand at scrum time.

"Their decision making was better. They were more disciplined. I can't think of one part of the game where the All Blacks were the better performed side," Wilson said.

He added that it was a poor night at the office for Steve Hansen's side. "Many of those mistakes in attack, missed tackles and moments of ill-discipline were just things we are used to seeing so few of from the New Zealand side. After being sublime against Ireland in the quarterfinal, the All Blacks effort in the semi was well below their very lofty standards."

Tunnicliffe said England never let the All Blacks be themselves. "Maybe the game does raise questions around whether the All Blacks have the ability to think on their feet when things aren't going well?

"If something's clearly not working, do they have a Plan B that is radically different enough to change the course of a game?"

Denise Garland, senior producer with RNZ, observed that England "did a fab job at shutting out Beauden Barrett, definitely our best playmaker".

"He was unable to get his hands on the ball since England chose to come at us from the front, rather than using their kicking prowess to the extent we're used to, and he was unable to influence our attack with both his words and his play since he was stuck out the back."

Beauden Barrett

England closed down Beauden Barrett's attacking skills, Denise Garland says. Photo: PhotoSport

Jeremy Rees, RNZ's executive editor of sport, believes England won the game in the areas where the All Blacks usually rate themselves, especially the breakdowns.

"Their loose forwards, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola, outclassed Kieran Read, Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea. They looked faster, stronger, tougher in the tackle and better at scavenging for the ball.

"The other area was out wide. How many times in All Black games have we seen a piece of dazzling brilliance out on the wings; the structure of the game has fractured and an All Black back makes a break. Tonight it never happened. Every time an All Black looked to run wide they were shut down and bundled into touch, with England inevitably winning the lineout."

England's  and New Zealand's players take part in a maul during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final match between England and New Zealand at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 26, 2019.

Jeremy Rees says England's forward pack outperformed the All Blacks, especially at the breakdowns. Photo: AFP

Garland said last night's game made her recall the 2011 Rugby World Cup final in Auckland - both times the All Blacks looked scared for large sections of the game and on both occasions they put in sub-par performances.

Rees said it reminded him of a game he saw as a kid. "It was 1979, Eden Park, Bastille Day and the French cut loose. They looked like the All Blacks normally do: confident, running it from anywhere and going to win.

"This game was very different - it was a tight battle - but the feeling was the same. England looked like a side which knew how to win and were confident they could do it. They did. Good on them."

Tunnicliffe said: "I guess it reminded me of the two infamous All Blacks losses to the French in previous World Cups - the quarter-final shocker in 2007 and the 1999 semi-final - although those games played out quite differently to last night."

Porter said the effort of the All Blacks shouldn't be questioned. "Captain Kieran Read's bloodied face was testament to that, but their tactics and decision making weren't up to scratch and they got shown up by an England team who were confident and committed to what they were doing.

"England really were that good. Superb, unbreakable, accurate, willing, composed and brutish."

Rees was also impressed with England's fitness levels which matched the All Blacks at their best and also by their low-key celebrations at the end.

"We have witnessed English sides celebrate some minor moment in a game as if they had just won the Nobel Prize. We once saw an English team celebrate by doing a lap of honour to acknowledge the crowd after they had managed to lose by just a few points to the All Blacks on a northern tour.

"Tonight, we saw England celebrate their win and their place in a cup final with a kind of steely, subdued joy rather than over-exuberance. They reacted to the final whistle like a team that was still on full alert, focused on winning next weekend and one that knew how good it had been and wasn't surprised at the result. They looked like potential winners."

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