England’s extraordinary triumph over the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday was one of the greatest performances the game has ever seen.
There’s no melodrama in that statement. It was simply sublime and against all odds.
The 38-21 record-breaking win was the finest ever at the headquarters of English rugby in terms of the quality of the opposition and the sheer improbability of the result.
What England achieved cannot be overstated. There was no element of luck to it, it was as comprehensive a win as it was unbelievable.
There was absolutely no feasible logic from an analytical point of view to suggest that such a shocking outcome was even remotely possible.
Richie McCaw’s All Blacks had been unbeaten in 20 Tests, dating back to August 2011. They had not lost to northern hemisphere opposition on an end-of-year tour in a decade and had made a compelling case to be considered as the best team of all-time.
Instead, it was an underdog English side, in the purest sense of the word, who immortalised themselves with a legendary performance. In 80 inspired minutes, they vanquished the nightmares of a disastrous World Cup campaign 12 months earlier and restored pride in the white jersey.
Individuals stood tall - the barnstorming Manu Tuilagi, who cut the All Black defence to shreds like none before him, talismanic captain Chris Robshaw, majestic Tom Wood, sharpshooter Owen Farrell, prodigious Joe Launchbury and battle-hardened Brad Barritt to name but a few - but it was the indomitable collective effort that will live long in the memory of all who witnessed the classic clash.
So where does the victory rank? Does it top France’s epic 43-31 victory over the All Blacks, ironically at the same venue, in the 1999 World Cup semifinals? In a word - yes.
It’s unprecedented in so many ways. No team have ever dominated the All Blacks in all facets of play like England did at the weekend, condemning New Zealand to their first scoreless half this century.
Only once in 498 Tests - a 28-7 defeat to the Wallabies in Sydney in 1999 - have the mighty All Blacks been beaten by a larger margin. That speaks volumes of the victory – a triumph of the spirit, passion and unity of 23 men that should be savoured.
It deserves all the plaudits in the world.
By Quintin van Jaarsveld
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