Stead­fast Eng­land seal fi­nal spot with New Zealand win

▶ Jones’ side end New Zealand hopes of World Cup ‘three-peat’ with won­der show in Ja­pan – but lock Itoje in­sists job is not fin­ished

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - THE NA­TIONAL

Maro Itoje says the job is only half done af­ter in­spir­ing Eng­land to a stun­ning win over reign­ing cham­pi­ons New Zealand to clinch a place in next week’s Rugby World Cup fi­nal.

Giant lock Itoje, 24, more than mer­ited his man-of-the­match ac­co­lade with an all-ac­tion dis­play to dis­rupt any flow to New Zealand’s game as Eng­land se­cured a shock 19-7 win in Yoko­hama.

“Fair play to the All Blacks, they were the best team in the world for a rea­son, we re­ally had to play for 80 min­utes. It was a good day at the of­fice for us,” Itoje said. “I think we’re just build­ing, game by game, week by week, we’re just build­ing. We haven’t done the job yet but we’re one step closer.”

Itoje, along­side flankers Sam Un­der­hill and Tom Curry, played a lead­ing role in Eng­land’s mag­nif­i­cent de­fen­sive and set-piece ef­fort to build the plat­form for their first win over New Zealand since 2012.

Eng­land coach Ed­die Jones paid credit to the All Blacks, who had won the last two World Cups, be­fore con­cur­ring with Itoje on the need to im­prove again be­fore next week’s fi­nal against Wales or South Africa back at Yoko­hama In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium.

“We’re play­ing against a great team to­day, Steve Hansen is a great coach, Kieran Read is a great cap­tain,” the Aus­tralian said. “I’m re­ally ex­cited for the boys. We’ve got an­other week in the comp, pleased about that so we can see how we can get bet­ter.

“We played our game and our dis­ci­pline was out­stand­ing. Our for­wards are well-drilled and tac­ti­cally aware, but we can get bet­ter by tak­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

The vic­tory swept Eng­land into their fourth fi­nal and first since 2007, where they will seek their sec­ond vic­tory af­ter 2003 when they be­came the first, and still only, north­ern hemi­sphere coun­try to tri­umph.

Make no mis­take, this was no smash-and-grab from Eng­land, who took the lead with less than two min­utes on the clock, cen­tre Manu Tuilagi pow­er­ing over un­der the posts.

“We felt like we had pre­pared well and we started the game well,” said win­ning cap­tain Owen Far­rell.

New Zealand, who had won 15 of the teams’ last 16 meet­ings, never got a foothold in the game and it is a long time since any All Black team looked so far from threat­en­ing the try­line.

They crossed it once, and that was off an Eng­land er­ror, with Ardie Savea gob­bling up an over­cooked throw from Jamie Ge­orge’s li­ne­out throw to make the score 13-7. But they can have no com­plaints af­ter los­ing to Eng­land at a World Cup for the first time.

Eng­land built their lead through the bril­liant goal­kick­ing of re­called fly-half Ge­orge Ford, rested for the quar­ter-fi­nal de­mo­li­tion job over Aus­tralia, who scored 12 points.

Far­rell and his troops sent out an early mes­sage they would not be cowed by their op­po­nents, who have not lost as World Cup match since los­ing to 20-18 to France at the 2007 tour­na­ment, lin­ing up in a “V” for­ma­tion – much to the cha­grin of the match of­fi­cials – as they per­formed the Haka be­fore kick off.

“We wanted to keep a re­spect­ful dis­tance and be re­spect­ful to that,” Far­rell said. “But we didn’t just want to stand in a flat line let­ting them come to us.”

The All Blacks, who barely ven­tured into Eng­land’s 22, would have been re­lieved to have reached half time only 10-0 down af­ter Ford popped over a late penalty and a Un­der­hill try was ruled out by the TMO.

Eng­land piled on the pres­sure right from the start of the sec­ond half, but suf­fered an­other TMO set­back when Ben Youngs’ try was ruled out for a knock on af­ter six min­utes.

A Ford penalty made it 13-0 as New Zealand con­tin­ued to make rare mis­takes but they were gifted a way back into the

We were play­ing against a great team to­day. We played our game and our dis­ci­pline was out­stand­ing ... but we can get bet­ter ED­DIE JONES Eng­land coach

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