Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

How in the hell did that happen ?

It's Monday morning and to be honest I am still in a bit of a state of shock at what happened on Saturday afternoon. It was awesome, it was epic and it was almost unbelievable. England thrashing the All Blacks in the rugby, and yes, I think it's perfectly fair to call a 38-21 score a thrashing, or indeed a drubbing. The World Champions reduced to a panicked bunch of schoolboys as England ran rampant through their defensive line - should that not read the other way round ? Who on earth would have thought in their wildest dreams that the persistently inconsistent England would or actually could pull off a performance like that on Saturday ? If you love and follow rugby like I do, then I am sure you have suffered the few ups but mostly dire and heart-breaking downs since that historic day in November 2003. OK, so as a team we arguably might have peaked the year before when we beat New Zealand in their back yard with only thirteen of our men on the field at one point, but for a while we really were the best side in the world and we went down to Australia and snatched the World Cup back from the southern hemisphere. Heady days were they not to be an England rugby supporter ?

The good times could not last though. The world order was resumed and the southern hemisphere once again rose to the top and remain there to this day. The best teams in world sport are for the most part relatively stable beings full of natural leaders, and to me one of the saddest post-2003 things was knowing that such a great England rugby team would never again play together. We are human beings though and we live in hope, but crumbs it's been a lot of heartache since that great November day. Getting to the final in the 2007 World Cup was to me a fluke, and the 2011 World Cup was from England's point of view a disgrace. Sure, we have had a few good results now and then to keep us hoping that just perhaps the good times might be just around the corner, but sadly we were fooling ourselves and for the most part it was then back to a dire mediocrity and clutching at any straws we could find.

I happen to believe that Stuart Lancaster is the right man for the England job, indeed how could be turned down after the hope he instilled with the last Six Nations ? Good but not great, but without doubt a step in the right direction, but still we can't front up against the southern hemisphere. Sure, we drew against South Africa this summer and we were narrowly beaten by them the other day, but for all the posturing about a lucky try or whatever, at the end of the day history remembers only the result and the winning side. New Zealand panicked in the World Cup final last year and nearly threw it away against France, but at the end of the day they won and that is all there is to it. Win pretty, win ugly, who cares, it's all about winning in professional sport, and England have not exactly been blazing a winning trail since 2003...........

So how in the hell did Saturday afternoon happen ? Was I watching a game of rugby in a parallel universe to the rest of you and the real result was that actually we were the ones who got thrashed ? Well it seems that it's true and we really did give the All Blacks a hammering to end their streak of twenty wins on the trot. Somehow we threw the shackles off and played a game of rugby that was so aggressively precise that we turned over the best side in the world and made them look distinctly ordinary, panicked and scared even. To outplay the All Blacks at the breakdown is simply unbelievable, but we did it. To score those three quick tries when it got rather scary again at 15-14 early in the second half was simply off the chart, almost so unbelievable that I had to pinch myself. England scoring tries with such comparative ease against an All Black side that some are calling the greatest side ever. Are you sure we really did do what we did on Saturday afternoon ?

So where does this leave England rugby ? Is this the turning point where we take all that young talent that we so obviously have and trust in them to play their natural games and give us supporters hope again ? Note that word hope. There have been a few false dawns since 2003 that have been for the most part shattered like a small boat in a storm, but is this really it ? Is this when we start that long and difficult climb back to the top of world rugby and become genuine contenders for the 2015 World Cup ? Who knows, but can you imagine the confidence now sweeping through that England squad. They went out and proved every single person wrong and thrashed the All Blacks in what has to be one of the greatest sporting upsets ever. I love watching films, but a script can never come close to the dramatics of real life. Is this the new dawn for English rugby ?

Henry Gilbey6 Comments