Enforcer Lawes has become England’s all-court superstar
not the touchline. This way, the support can stay in the close channels, can see the ball, can communicate better and can make a bigger impact.
The new Lawes squares up, ball in two hands and goes right to the gain line, so he can almost feel an opponent’s breath on his face, and flicks the ball to Sinckler. Suddenly, the opposition are on their heels and in the brace position.
It is a piece of absolute class – Lawes playing the All Blacks for suckers. After that, Sinckler does what we know he can: he has played fly-half as much as any actual 10 this tournament and here he is at it again, pirouetting, spinning and offloading to Ford, who has Mako Vunipola with him.
England are in behind again and there is genuine trouble in the New Zealand ranks. They have gone code red. By this time, Lawes, because he was able to square up and was balanced when he passed, manages to beat everyone around the corner and becomes the next carrier at the ruck under the posts.
This is when he becomes the old Lawes who has always been such a handful. Now is the time to batter down the door, to suck in as many All Blacks as possible, potentially score and if not – the worst case scenario – have a disjointed unconnected defensive line in front of you with players in the wrong position, hoping to defend against big men. Lawes thunders on, wins the gain line, and it requires three All Blacks to stop him. The fringes empty, Aaron Smith is left to do what he can against Tuilagi but it is not enough, and the centre crashes over.
It was a glorious moment for Tuilagi, but Lawes was the catalyst for the try. He played only 55 minutes against New Zealand but what a shift it was. The man who was only in the team to tackle and scare people a few years back, had more touches in the build-up to this try – he even won the line-out that started the whole thing – than anyone else and with a variety that far outweighed his half-backs.
The soft, deft touch and pop after changing his angle of run, understanding that a hard carry would kill the momentum, and then the sledgehammer carry to create the chance shows what an all-rounder he has become.
Lawes was everywhere when he was on that pitch, with an ability to do exactly what the situation required. If ever you wanted a pin-up for Eddie Jones and his team’s ability to find space against a tough Springbok side, or proof of England’s ability to play whatever is in front of them, heads up, brains on, then Big Courtney is your man.
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