Upsets don't come much bigger than this one.
But three quick tries sealed the deal as England ran away with a historic 38-21 thrashing of the New Zealand 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.
This England team was coming off of consecutive losses to Australia and South Africa. The team was hurting, which had to count for something, but the lack of form was going to make beating New Zealand a near-impossible task.
In contrast, the All Blacks entered the game with an undefeated record over the past 20 games. Only on occasion during that stretch had they come close to losing. They were a class above the rest. This final match was merely a formality.
It just goes to show that sports outcomes don't always go to plan.
England brought an outstanding game, showed physicality and breakdown skill and handed the All Blacks one of their worst defeats ever.
The All Blacks appeared flustered. They were under pressure for most of the game and were unable to gain any momentum. For once, their basic skills 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. For long periods of the game, the team failed to threaten.
England controlled the game from the start, sucking the All Blacks into a kicking duel that deprived them of the opportunity to attack. They 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. No matter what they threw at England, it was repelled.
The alarm bells were beginning to ring.
England only grew in confidence, feeding off of 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. Daniel Carter missed two kicks relatively handy to the posts in this time, 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 in the cards.
But the All Blacks are world champions for a reason.
Over the next 10 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. The next 10 minutes would rank amongst the finest in England rugby history and would show why the team deserved to win.
Two defensive blunders from New Zealand saw both England midfielders gain the opportunity to make breaks. Through good support play, both breaks led to tries. Just minutes later, a Manu Tuilagi intercept resulted in a third try.
With the score at 32-14, the All Blacks were in trouble.
The final 20 minutes saw the All Blacks continue to throw the kitchen sink at their opponents, but they were met by a determined rush defence that kept fighting 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 had been an outstanding defence all season. To go with this, they showed a 10-minute spell of running rugby that is rarely seen from the men in white, making it a memorable outing.
England's forward pack was simply outstanding. Dan Coles was the best of the tight forwards, proving strong at scrum time and being influential at the breakdown. The loose forward trio was also brilliant, tackling well and constantly beating the All Blacks to the ball at ruck time.
Ben Youngs provided good service at the base, whilst Owen Farrell gave a 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 10 minutes of the second half.
Other than that, the team 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 ascendancy up front.
The scrum struggled from the start, whilst the lineout gained parity at best. Not enough players were being committed to the breakdowns, and when they were, they were too slow getting there. They went backwards too often at the contact situations; consequently, the backs had no platform to work off.
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 their performances, it really was a mixed bag.
Both midfielders had moments of brilliance as well as moments of disaster. Daniel Carter had a game to forget, reminding us that he is in fact human. Aaron Smith struggled with the messy ball he received.
The loss will hurt New Zealand. Their bid to break the world record for longest undefeated streak has been broken. With it comes the end of their dream to complete an unbeaten season.
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. 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.
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