Out played, out coached and out thought, the All Blacks tumbled out of the World Cup —Marc Hinton, Sunday Star-Times, 27 October 2019

The best team won

by Roger Childs

England v ABS 2019 1Sometimes the best team on the planet gets beaten by the number two. It happened at the Netball World Cup to our great delight, but this time New Zealand was the losing side. The England coaches had obviously carefully studied the way the All Blacks thrashed Ireland last week and set out to counter the tactics. It worked.

Was there too much “final gazing” and some complacency and over-confidence in the New Zealand camp? Devotees of the game will recall what happening in 2007 World Cup when Graham Henry fielded some of their second stringers in the quarter-final against France and paid the price.

This time the All Blacks had a powerful side, but there were two selection errors.

  • Sam Cane the specialist flanker, should have been in the run-on team instead of lock Scott Barrett.
  • Dane Cole is the best hooker and should have started ahead of Cody Taylor.

Anatomy of an epic victory

England v ABs 2019 2Basically England took the game to the All Blacks from the start and within three minutes were 7-0 head. A sweeping back movement down field where there were a number of missed tackles by the ABs, took the English close to goal line and a try quickly followed. From then, on, apart from occasional patches of positive All Black attacking, the English dominated all phases of the game.

They were quicker to the loose ball and, lead by speedy flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, pulled off far more turnovers that their opponents. A number of these were actually won by the long, tall lock Maro Ioje, who was also outstanding in the line-out. He also stole two All Black throw-ins.  Ironically it was only an uncharacteristically poor English line-out throw that gifted the All Blacks their only try.

England v ABs 2019 4The idea that the big English forwards would be tired out by the ABs running game never happened — England was there for the full 80 minutes. Their tackling was superb and they never allowed the All Blacks to get into the sustained high paced, running rugby which had been the key to the superb performance against Ireland in the quarter-finals.

The English backs were often dangerous and first five George Ford’s goal kicking was deadly with four penalty goals and a conversion.

Essentially England controlled the game from the start and often anticipated All Black tactics, such as having players waiting when the New Zealanders ran through from kick offs, jumped high and palmed the ball back.

All Blacks below par

This was a poor performance from a team that was all class against Ireland the week before. There was too much ill discipline, missed tackles and poor passing. One example of the latter was the try scoring opportunity squandered in the first half when Retallick made an excellent break with two players in support but threw the pass behind them. Jack Goodhue, who was the pick of the ABs backs, gathered it from behind but the opportunity to draw level was gone.

There were a number of errors and ill-discipline incidents which cost the All Blacks dearly.

  • Late in the game, Sam Whitelock was guilty of an illegal clean-out about 30 metres from the England goal line and a penalty was reversed which could have seen a line-out 10 metres from the corner. A try at this point would have had the ABs right back in the game.
  • Jordie Barrett threw a stupid pass to a forward only a metre away, inside the 22 and from the ensuing knock-on England gained a handy scrum feed.
  • Beauden Barrett was also guilty of a couple of aimless kicks down field which the English returned with interest.
  • Retallick also conceded a penalty in the second half and Ford duly obliged to push out score.
  • Angus Ta’avo gifted another penalty when he tried to pick the ball out of a ruck on the England side late in the game.

There were occasional promising attacking moves in the second half and Sevu Reece was involved in two. Unfortunately, in one of these the pass was thrown behind him. 

Some of the replacements didn’t make sense – both Goodhue and George Bridge were playing well when they were taken off.  

A well-deserved win to the English

This was a great all-round performance and all the team contributed. The English made few errors apart from gifting Ardie Savea a try.

England V ABS 2019Nigel Owens generally refereed fairly, and there was only one obvious exception. After all the talk and action in most instances, on shoulder charges and dangerous tackles,  the English forward who hit Reece with his shoulder should have yellow-carded late in the game.

No matter, this was a well-deserved victory and England now moves on to the final where either South Africa or Wales will await them.