Stuart, the replacement tighthead who was making his first appearance because of a knee injury, emerged as the unexpected saviour at Twickenham by burrowing over twice from short range as the All Blacks crumbled in the final 10 minutes.
In doing so he became the first England prop to score two tries in a single match, but his unconventional technique for scoring the first needed repeat viewings from the TMO before being approved.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 19, 2022
“Will’s got a special session on Monday – how to score a try. I’ve never seen a player try to put the ball between his legs and score a try! It’s the most unusual technique!” head coach Eddie Jones joked.
Bath’s giant front row was at the forefront of a mighty display from England’s bench as the cavalry arrived to accelerate the All Blacks’ collapse from a position of total control that was reflected by a 25-6 lead.
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Dave Ribbans, Ben Youngs and Henry Slade also carried the fight to New Zealand, with Stuart’s 73rd-minute opener igniting belief that defeat was avoidable.
“I nearly botched that first try completely and Eddie said I need to sort out my finishing drills, so I might be doing some of that with the wingers!” said Stuart, who was making his first appearance for six weeks because of a knee injury.
“It was PTSD from (forwards coach) Richard Cotterill because we’re used to presenting the ball as quickly as possible rather than scoring the try, so I just tried to snap the ball back as quickly as possible. Thankfully it did touch the ground at some point.
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 19, 2022
“I had quite a few family members down as well so it was special to do it in front of them.
“All the lads who came on brought a big impact and it’s great to be part of a momentum swing like that, you can feel it. It’s exciting.
“Momentum in games is a weird thing because it’s so infectious. When you’re on the receiving end of it, it feels like everything is going wrong, and then when you start getting phases together and applying them, there’s no better feeling.
“That’s especially the case for a forward getting around the corner, making carries. It’s pretty infectious and it’s a good feeling.”
England’s late flurry of tries – Freddie Steward also went over – spared Jones uncomfortable questions over what had been an embarrassingly easy romp across Twickenham for the All Blacks.
— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) November 19, 2022
South Africa complete the Autumn Nations Series but the hosts must first pick through the bones of an alarmingly passive first half against a New Zealand team that is not the force of old.
“Credit to them, they were they were firing on all cylinders in the first half and we were nowhere near where it needs to be,” said Stuart.
“It was my first time playing them and that was the whole chat during the week – they’re not the same team as the All Blacks of 10 years ago.
“There was an opportunity to start imposing ourselves on them, which we didn’t do in the first half but as the game went on, we got a bit of momentum. We bumped up the physicality way more in the forwards.
“At the start of the second half we fired a few shots and then the momentum swings. The one thing we take out of it is the fightback which was massively positive. Everyone’s happy with that, but we know there is so much more that we have to do.”