In the latest edition of our series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.
This week appropriately ahead of the start of the November Tests, we go back to Twickenham in 2002 when England took on New Zealand.
NOVEMBER 9, 2002
England’s evolution into a world-leading side has been well documented. From their 1999 Rugby World Cup exit to successive Grand Slam failures, Clive Woodward’s side finally turned a corner in 2003, ending that year with a World Cup title.
But the foundations were laid long before that – putting the Grand Slam ghost to bed in 2003, and defeating New Zealand on their own turf for the first time midway through that same year.
The first building block was arguably put in place the November beforehand, when England took down New Zealand at Twickenham, a first win over the All Blacks for nine years.
The All Blacks had Jonah, but a whole host of top players were missing on that day in 2002 – the likes of Keith Lowen, Danny Lee and Sam Broomhall not exactly being household names.
What’s more, England were comfortably up 31-14 before Lomu’s second try and an effort from Lee set up a tense finish. Ben Blair, the future Cardiff Blues full-back, would have snatched the win were it not for a Ben Cohen try-saving tackle.
The aftermatch from an English perspective centred on how the All Blacks’ attack had troubled them, the work of their decoy runners “bordering on the illegal” according to defence coach Phil Larder.
The undoubted star of the show however was Wilkinson on a day where he scored 21 points, including that remarkable solo try when he spotted the lack of a full-back and chipped over the top of the defence to score by the posts.
Lomu, back at Twickenham again where he previously scored spectacular tries against France in the 1999 RWC, was as dangerous as ever out on the wing. Give him as much as space as England did for his first try, and there would only ever be one outcome.
Well-worked tries for Lewis Moody and Ben Cohen, the latter including an early ‘Ash Splash’ from the wing on his way to the line, had given England enough of a buffer, although it said plenty that they finished the match disappointed at having the let the All Blacks into the contest.
On their way to becoming the number one side in the world though, this was a vital stepping stone.
Tries: Cohen, Moody, Wilkinson
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Drop Goal: Wilkinson
For New Zealand:
Tries: Howlett, Lomu 2, Lee
Cons: Blair 2, Mehrtens 2
England: 15 Jason Robinson, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Will Greenwood, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 0 Matt Dawson, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio, 7 Richard Hill, 6 Lewis Moody, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Martin Johnson (c), 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Trevor Woodman
Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Jason Leonard, 18 Ben Kay, 19 Neil Back, 20 Austin Healey, 21 Ben Johnston, 22 Tim Stimpson
New Zealand: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Tana Umaga, 12 Keith Lowen, 11 Jonah Lomu, 10 Carlos Spencer, 9 Steve Devine, 8 Sam Broomhall, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Taine Randell (c), 5 Keith Robinson, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Kees Meeuws, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Joe McDonnell
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Carl Hayman, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Rodney So’oialo, 20 Danny Lee, 21 Andrew Mehrtens, 22 Mark Robinson
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)