Brilliant England rounded off their autumn internationals in sensational style today - with an emphatic three-try record win over world champions New Zealand.
Stuart Lancaster’s side were desperate for at least a decent performance after the disappointment of two narrow defeats against Australia and South Africa.
However, nobody - perhaps except themselves - could have foreseen this remarkable display as they overcame and largely dominated the mighty All Blacks for the first time in nine years.
Robust Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi was at times unplayable as he scored one interception try, put over Brad Barritt for another and then burst through Dan Carter, of all people, to set up Chris Ashton in a thrilling second period that ruthlessly brought New Zealand’s 20-game unbeaten run to a shuddering halt.
England had shown tremendous spirit having seen a 15-0 lead - courtesy of Owen Farrell’s four penalties and drop goal - evaporate to 15-14 early in the second period when the feted All Blacks finally found their swagger and scored tries via Julian Savea and Kieran Read.
However, by the time Savea scored a consolation second in the 74th minute, delirious England fans had long been in celebratory mood after some quality football of the highest standard had simply stunned the visitors.
Confident England led 12-0 at half-time after showing great physicality and unsettling the uneasy All Blacks from the off.
Even the usually unflappable Carter was off-key - and perhaps off-colour following the sickness bug that had affected New Zealand this week - missing two simple penalties.
But the hosts were relentless in their approach and, with Farrell benefitting working behind a fine forward effort, Lancaster’s men delivered a famous victory that will live long in the memory and ended their opponents’ hopes of going the entire year unbeaten.
And after watching his side’s 20-match unbeaten run demolished New Zealand coach Steve Hansen gave Lancaster’s young side a ringing endorsement.
Hansen said: “There were two teams capable of winning the World Cup out there.
“No excuses, we got beaten by the better side. This is a good England side. You should get behind them and back them a bit. They have shown what they can do and if you back them it will make them even more dangerous.
“They thoroughly deserved their victory and should be proud of what they have achieved with magnificent football.
Lancaster said: “The performance was exactly what we had hoped for. I’m chuffed for the players. When the tough times came we stayed together. That team belief with a young England side definitely augurs well for the future.
“At 15-14 we came back with three tries of our own. We’ve tried to instil a no-fear mentality in the players and to make them have the courage of their convictions.
“To build a 15-point lead was very pleasing. The All Blacks came back strong but our energy and our fight for the shirt was outstanding. That’s what got us across the line.
“Our defence was outstanding. We forced the All Blacks into errors and not many sides do that.”