Analysis: Magic Maro lifts dominant England to an historic win  

England made their statement before the game had even kicked off.

England made their statement before the game had even kicked off.

They had not come to make up the numbers, they had come to beat the best – and they did it emphatically.

They fanned out into a semi-circle to face down the haka, they accepted the challenge and then they dished it straight back.

It is hard to remember a more dominant England victory, given the stage and the opponent, it really was overwhelming.

A 19-7 scoreline flatters the All Blacks, the two-time defending world champions who scored only one try and that came from an England error.

After observing the haka, with skipper Owen Farrell grinning wryly and Joe Marler looking like he didn’t have a care in the world, it was clear that England meant business.

But they did their talking from the first whistle.

England have made a habit of starting fast, and this was no exception. The first – and what ended up being their only try of the night was a beauty.

Elliot Daly burned past Richie Mo’unga, and England were purring.

Then the forwards got involved, with Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes tossing offloads.

The All Blacks were being out All Black-ed and then it was that man Manu Tuilagi on hand to dive over from close range.

The score came after only two minutes, but really for the entire first quarter England battered the best in the business.

Their dominance probably merited a bigger lead, but the control with which they operated, keeping New Zealand at arm’s length was almost shocking and a marker of things to come.

This week Maro Itoje had warned the All Blacks that he was coming for them.

Their tormentor in Wellington two years ago with the British & Irish Lions, Itoje has reached a new level since then.

Eddie Jones and the coaching staff have worked wonders with their star, he missed most of the Guinness Six Nations with injury then had his minutes managed during the summer warm-ups.

All of that means the lock has come to the boil at just the right moment.

There was a tackle on Sam Whitelock in the second half that seemed to signal a changing of the guard in world rugby.

A passing of the torch to the new leading lock, Whitelock was poleaxed behind the gainline by his opposite man.

And that pretty much summed up Itoje’s defensive appetite, leading the linespeed and hitting hard and low.

If that was all Itoje offered, he would be a world-class lock. But it is barely scratching the surface.

He carried with real class, he sacked mauls and he turned over ball. Three times in total, which takes his tournament tally for steals to ten. In only four games.

With George Kruis on the bench, he also called the lineout. All the talk during the week was the All Blacks would overmatch them there, that wasn’t the case.

Itoje barely put a finger wrong, was rightly named man of the match, and with him in their side, England will start next weekend’s final as favourites.

Sam Underhill made 14 tackles on Saturday, and every single one of them seemed to rattle the entire stadium.

The Bath back rower has made a reputation as a hard hitter, but seeing it in person it almost defies belief.

A cruise missile, Underhill hurls himself with no regard for his own safety at attackers, and Kieran Read got splattered all over Yokohama in the second half by one rib rattler in particular.

He was denied a try by the TMO, much like 12 months ago against the same opponents, but alongside Tom Curry the Kamikaze Kids continued their turbo-charged development.

A week after schooling David Pocock and Michael Hooper, they gave Ardie Savea et al more of the same.

Last week Jones made the call to drop George Ford for the Wallaby quarter-final.

Jones does not like that word ‘drop’, he prefers to say he changed his role.

Jones may make light of it, but it is rare for a team to be chopping and changing this deep into a World Cup.

Normally a settled side has been established by now for the do or die knockout clashes. But this England side under Jones have worked out that there are many ways to skin a cat.

And in restoring Ford to No.10 this week, the head coach played another blinder.

This was the right horse for the right course.

Ford prodded and probed with his kicking game, then took over from the tee when Farrell appeared to hurt himself and nailed the big ones. Throw in a team high 15 tackles, and it was a consummate showing from his No.10.

Elsewhere, conventional wisdom had it that George Kruis should return to the second row for the lineout battle.

But Jones stuck with Lawes, and his lock repaid him with perhaps his best showing in an England shirt alongside Itoje.

The Northampton man ruled the skies, made some huge hits and was key to keeping the All Blacks scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2012.

That game in 2012 also came against England. It was at Twickenham in a game that became famous for Tuilagi’s individual showing.

He will probably never replicate that outing for one-off impact, but he got pretty close here.

Time and again he carried into the heart of the All Black midfield, giving his side a steady supply of front foot ball from which they could deny the wold champions even a sniff.

On top of that, he made some enormous tackles and even chipped in with an interception in the first half.

His defensive contribution at No.13 is vital to this England team, and it is pretty clear that the Leicester wrecking ball is the missing link for this England team.

With him in the side, they go from good to great.

Stuart Lancaster and then Jones were denied the opportunity to pick him for so much of their tenures.

But at his big-hitting best like this, there is no one in world rugby that England would rather have.