Lomu leaves a dent on England and history
June 18, 1995
Jonah Lomu smashes through Mike Catt
© Getty Images
Jonah Lomu scored four tries to lead New Zealand to a thumping win over England and into the 1995 World Cup final against South Africa. Opinion prior to the game was that its outcome hung on the performance of Lomu, the 20 year-old, 6'5" powerhouse on the left wing. In reality, the All Blacks' refined style of 'Total Rugby' would have been too good for any team on the day. Lomu grabbed the headlines; England were left clutching thin air, succumbing to a team performance so sublime that the host nation would have to cook up a few surprises to beat them in the final.
From the kick-off, England were wrong-footed. Andrew Mehrtens defied convention by kicking not towards his forwards on the right, but Lomu on the left. When England's Will Carling and Tony Underwood collided trying to regain possession, the momentum immediately swung New Zealand's way.
The rout was underway within four minutes. Lomu gathered a bouncing pass 30 metres out, rounded Tony Underwood, stepped ahead of Carling's desperate tackle and ran straight over Mike Catt, England's last line of defence. Two minutes later Josh Kronfeld, the All Blacks' other great find of the tournament, was on the end of a brilliant move involving forwards and backs. 12-0, with straggling spectators still searching for their seats and England's chances all but gone.
Already playing catch up, Rob Andrew missed a drop goal and a penalty. Mehrtens kicked a penalty from near halfway before No.8 Zinzan Brooke, capitalising on a missed touch kick from Carling, swung his boot for a most audacious drop goal from 45 metres out and wide on the right; salt in England's wounds. Glenn Osborne sent Lomu in for his second and New Zealand found themselves 25 points up in as many minutes. Andrew's solitary penalty before half time was little consolation.
Lomu was over for his third try immediately after the break, Kronfeld feeding him after collecting a chip ahead from Mehrtens. For England to outscore New Zealand 26-20 in the second half was creditable, despite a sense that All Black minds moved on to the final once the outcome of this match was in the bag. Few teams can boast of scoring four tries in half an hour against New Zealand, but even that couldn't restore England's pride. A brace for both Carling and Rory Underwood, who became the leading try scorer in World Cups, with 11.
All Blacks scrum half Graeme Bachop's try was the product of a delightful back-row move and, with his fourth try, Lomu became the first man to score four against England since Maurice Richards for Wales in 1969.
England's defenders had barely laid a hand on Lomu in his four dashes for the try line. The All Blacks had taken 15 man rugby to a new level, it was "by far the most exciting rugby played by any country," according to Gerald Davies. They feared England most in this tournament, but knew England played to a pattern and successfully set about breaking it.
Jonah Lomu powers over © Getty Images
After the match, Carling showed due respect to the winners. "They are very disciplined as well as being a very fast and very dynamic team," he said, "but when you have someone like Lomu, then it gives you an enormous advantage." Later, in an unguarded moment, Carling announced, "He's a freak, and the sooner he goes away the better". Indeed, New Zealand looked invincible on a rugby pitch but were beaten 15-12 in the final by South Africa after many of the team had suffered a mysterious bout of food poisoning.
There was huge speculation about Lomu defecting to rugby league for a vast sum of money, but rugby union quickly turned professional after the 1995 World Cup and Lomu became the game's first millionaire. In the 1999 World Cup he scored a further eight tries but again New Zealand failed to win the tournament.
Health problems plagued Lomu throughout his career. He remained part of the All Black squad until 2002 but the magic had gone. Though his time at the top was cut short by illness, he remains one of rugby's icons, not least for his rampaging performance in the 1995 World Cup semi-final.
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