In the end they ran, each man among them, one then the other, again and again at the foe, and each was repelled but the next rose for the challenge, and ran, and was repelled, until there was no more running to be done.
Afterwards they slumped to the green sward, some with the blood on their faces, some to weep quietly where they lay, and then gathered themselves to stand for the crowd, to bow in humility and thanks and with a promise to do better next time.
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We can savour it. Being beaten by the English, it turns out, is not a national disaster. Perhaps we've known too many real disasters now, perhaps we have always known there is no natural right to win a game of rugby.
We can savour that we know these things, because in the history of the Rugby World Cup we have not always known them.
We can savour the All Blacks too. We've lived through the time of a team that has played the most exciting rugby to the highest level and it's been a buzz.
All hail to Steve Hansen, then, whose genius it was to know that a big slow man can be beaten by a smaller but faster man. And now, all hail to Eddie Jones, who grasped that the next step was to make big fast men.
Hansen knew that too, in the end, with the switch to Scott Barrett on the flank. But Barrett isn't a platform. Barrett isn't a system of play. Even three of them, it's not the same.
It's like, while Hansen was tooling up the All Blacks to play like Elven folk, fast and loose and full of magic, Eddie Jones withdrew to Mordor and fashioned a new breed of Orc, the Uruk-hai, and he fed them forbidden flesh and made them so the light of the sun and the roar of the crowds did not weaken them.
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It's fine, we're from Middle Earth, this is how we talk.
Unfair to call them filthy Orcs? Perhaps. Think of them instead as longbowmen at the Battle of Crécy, it's 1346, near the start of the Hundred Years War, and the French (in this story, that's us) have turned up in all their flamboyant finery, with crossbows, a vastly superior side.
So the English stand back, out of range of the crossbows, while their longbowmen filled the air with arrows. Through the day and into the night, and the French died in their thousands while the English lost hardly any knights at all.
The outrageous arrows of our misfortune. When you reinvent warfare, you win. Sport is its proxy and Hansen knew it and so did Jones. But we'll come again. No one uses longbows anymore because the next thing that happened was they invented cannons.
Still, is there a finer sight than Sevu Reece dancing his way around some gallumping opposition? Or a sadder one than when they are not gallumping and they cut him down.
Does your heart stir more than when Beauden Barrett spies a gap, fast forwards into it and through, and the line is still not clear but to each side of him players are ranging in support? And how cruel when that gap closes on him instead, crushing the ball from his grasp and almost the life from his body?
The English worked the All Blacks out. We had four tall men in the lineout but we didn't much try to steal their ball and Courtney Lawes spent all day stealing ours. Your strength is your weakness and lineouts were ours.
There were flashes: Ardie Savea scored the All Blacks' only try from a lineout throw of theirs, but it was so easy you wondered if the English were on a smoko.
The All Blacks got players to the breakdown fast and hard but the English shunted them off it, again and again. Three or four of them, monsters with intent, hunting as a pack, and so our valiant guys lost the ball or were penalised for clinging too long to it. Your strength is your weakness and breakdowns were ours.
Valour. It's the word you use for bravery in defeat. This ritualised warfare pretending to be a bit of fun. It's only a game. It's good that sport is how we fight, instead of actual fighting. It was exceptional that the game did not have even a single penalty for foul or dangerous play.
It has been exceptional, all tournament, to see the blossoming of startling, adventurous, thrilling players, in many teams, and to see them not pining away on the wing hoping for 10 seconds of glory just once in a match, the way Wales treats its outside backs and South Africa used to. To see those players, the buccaneers of the turf, flash and weave and soar.
Still, you have to attend to the locks. If they can push and jump and tackle all day and run about with the puny football crushed in a giant fist, you're a long way towards owning the game. That has always been the rule.
The All Blacks have the two best locks in the world, we've been telling ourselves, and it was true. England has them now. Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes, fashioned in the image of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock but more full of fire, it turns out. It's their world cup.
That's what rugby is, right now. Many more thrills, and much more power too. England worked it out, those locks were their longbows. We'll come again, with Elven sorcery.