The All Blacks, hailed by Eddie Jones as the greatest team in all of sport, had not lost a match in the tournament for 12 years. They had not looked like losing one.
Yet on this incredible night in Yokohama they were given a rugby lesson by England, who bossed the game throughout to set up a final showdown next Saturday against either Wales or South Africa.
England were on a £1.2million team bonus to beat New Zealand for the first in World Cup history but this was not about money.
It was all about the glory.
From the moment Manu Tuilagi struck with a try after just 98 seconds a nation humiliated at the last World Cup on home soil tripped the light fantastic.
England could even afford to have two tries controversially chalked off and still bring home the biggest scalp in quite unforgettable fashion. It was a defensive masterclass. No, it was more than that.
New Zealand had known they were in for a mighty battle the moment they set up for the Haka and saw England advance and adopt a horseshoe formation.
“Challenge accepted,” the All Blacks twitter account noted, but they had seen nothing yet.
England kicked off and forced New Zealand to clear their lines. Elliot Daly picked up and ran it right, linking with Anthony Watson.
The ball was recycled and moved infield. First Kyle Sinckler then Courtney Lawes offloaded deliciously as white shirts ploughed forward.
New Zealand had never in World Cup history conceded a try inside the first two minutes. Tuilagi, with the final touch, changed all that.
A pause for the shock to set in then the stadium erupted in noise. No time to get used to it though as England came again. And again.
They might have scored down the right, then they probably should have done up the middle after Tuilagi intercepted Beauden Barrett and offloaded to Jonny May.
The All Blacks held firm but they still could not get a foothold in the game as England reprised the start that had brought them a 15-0 lead when the sides last met, at Twickenham last November.
They ended up losing that one but Maro Itoje insisted that this was England’s time. His formidable work at the breakdown and lineout certainly only lent weight to his argument.
For all their good work, their possession and territory, England could not add to their score.
They briefly thought they had when Sam Underhill went over on 25 minutes. But Tom Curry was adjudged to have obstructed the Kiwi defence with his decoy run and TMO Marius Jonker disallowed it on review – just as he had Underhill’s ‘winning’ try against the All Blacks at Twickenham 11 months ago.
Again England refused to be downhearted. Even when Owen Farrell took a blow to the leg which briefly disabled them. And when Jones’ men won a penalty just past halfway on the stroke of half-time Ford stepped up and nailed it.
New Zealand left the field and ran straight into a horrible stat. This was just the second time in more than 20 years they had been held scoreless in the first half in any Test.
Of greater concern was the one queuing behind it, which showed that the last seven times the All Blacks had been held scoreless at the midpoint they had gone on to lose.
Steve Hansen responded by subbing off flanker Scott Barrett for Scott Cane, England by returning to the field and to their now customary position on the New Zealand try line.
It was no surprise when six minutes into the new half Ben Youngs saw a gap round the side of a ruck and was over. England fans in the stadium went bonkers, at home the feeling was the same.
But again referee Nigel Owens hesitated and instead of awarding the try drew a box in the air. That invited TMO Jonker to the party and once again he played the role of killjoy.
Just how he could rule that the alleged knock-on, off the floor inside a maul was ‘clear and obvious’, is a mystery. As such, he should have kept his nose out of it.
To their immense credit England took it on the chin again and came back for a penalty, which Ford converted.
That might have been that but at 13-0 England made their first real mistake of the match. Jamie George over threw to a lineout on his own line, the ball sailed north of Itoje’s grasp, and Ardie Savea pounced at the tail to claim the softest of tries.
But England would not be denied. Not this group of men. Not on this night.
Ford popped over two more penalties and there was nothing New Zealand could do other than watch the changing of the guard.
Pen: Ford 4.
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