Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks quest for three-peat falls short against England

New Zealand's dream of a Rugby World Cup three-peat has ended with a 19-7 defeat to England in Japan.

Rocked by an opening assault that left them seven points down and firmly on the back foot, the All Blacks never really recovered, suffering their seventh defeat in the history of the tournament - equalling their biggest.

After the English stared down the pre-game haka, they opened the contest with two minutes of non-stop attacking rugby that saw their rivals miss tackle after tackle and resulted in a try to centre Manu Tuilagi.

New Zealand tried to battle their way back into the contest, but their kicking was wayward and handling uncertain, while their rivals dominated the forward exchanges.

The English had opportunities to extend their lead. Flanker Sam Underhill crossed late in the first half, but his try was disallowed, when referee Nigel Owens ruled NZ defenders were obstructed in the build-up.

Early in the second half, halfback Ben Youngs was also over the goal-line, but Owens found a slight knock-on in the preceding ruck.

Instead, England relied on the boot of first-five George Ford to stretch their advantage into double figures.

The All Blacks struggled to break the fast-advancing England defensive line, but flanker Ardie Savea gave the nation a sniff of hope, snatching an attacking lineout throw and diving over for a try in the 57th minute.

Richie Mo'unga's conversion brought the reigning champions back within a converted try.

all blacks squad
Photo credit: Newshub.

But five minutes later, Ford added another penalty to put England beyond that crucial seven-point margin - and then another with 10 minutes remaining.

New Zealand had a chance to rally again, when replacement halfback TJ Perenara sparked a breakout down the right, but the move died with Dane Coles tackled and a defensive penalty awarded to England.

"I guess it's pretty hard to put into words what it means, but you've got to give the English credit," said disappointed captain Kieran Read.

"They came out and started extremely well. We just couldn't get into our game.

"We'll look at that game and there'll be so many 'what-ifs' and things we could have done a lot better. On a stage like this, you can't afford that and it cost us."

The outcome will cause Kiwi sports fans flashbacks of July's Cricket World Cup final, where England pipped New Zealand for the trophy, after a tie was decided on countback of boundaries. 

This result also consigns the All Blacks to a bronze-medal playoff next Friday, facing the losers of Sunday's South Africa-Wales semi-final. England go on to face the winners of that second semi.

England 19 (Tuilagi try; Farrell conversion; Ford four penalties) New Zealand 7 (Savea try; Mo'unga conversion)

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

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The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

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