New Zealand added to their unbeaten tour trail by snatching a 19-6 victory over a spirited England at Twickenham on Saturday.
New Zealand added to their unbeaten tour trail by snatching a 19-6 victory over a spirited England on Saturday.
Martin Johnson had made a couple of tweaks for their final November fixture of 2009, with a more comfortable Mark Cueto preferred to Ugo Monye in the full-back jersey and the size of Simon Shaw taking over from Louis Deacon.
And what an impact the duo made for their under pressure Team Manager, particularly the Sale man whose combination of returning and high takes were evident for large parts of an enjoyable 80 minutes at HQ. Twickenham even swapped its boos for echoes of 'Swing Low'.
But New Zealand are not the IRB world top-ranked side for nothing and demonstrated their ability to strike in short spells when Jimmy Cowan's well-taken score close to the hour pretty much sealed where this match was heading.
England knew they had to improve dramatically after words such as 'dismal' – and other less printable qualifiers – were openly associated with that 16-9 victory over Argentina.
And that they certainly did as a new hunger and gusto carried their charge – something that was not on show seven days ago.
Saturday's opening 40 was arguably dominated by them, despite their higher tackle count (71-45). But England were forced into an early change on just two minutes that could have knocked their physical gameplan, with an injured Joe Worsley hobbling from the field.
Lewis Moody, Paul Hodgson and Matt Banahan stood up and were counted, throwing their differing weights around while Daniel Carter struggled to find his range and general direction – he did become New Zealand's highest Test scorer on 24 minutes, however.
The Canterbury fly-half seemed strangely out of sorts and was the architect of many of his side's mistakes in the contest. That didn't matter in the end thanks to his captain's dogged display being aided by Sitiveni Sivivatu and Mils Muliaina.
Steve Borthwick's outfit were unfortunate not to be further ahead than their two-time three-point advantage early on, as Jonny Wilkinson and the hit-and-miss Carter exchanged penalty goals. The moment that comes to mind was when Monye managed to catch New Zealand cold as they tried to attack from deep – Conrad Smith having his pass charged down but for the wing being called back by Jonathan Kaplan for that knock-on.
New Zealand had their own moment of 'what if' on 20 minutes when a rare moment of class from Carter saw him stand up a defender to allow Conrad Smith to set up Muliaina for the corner. He was just ushered into touch by early replacement Croft and centre Ayoola Erinle. Had he carried the ball in the right hand…
And so it came down to the All Blacks' smash and grab in the second period. Cowan may take the plaudits but it was all about Sivivatu and McCaw on Saturday as they head to Marseille with their tour objective still on track.
Man of the match: Plenty of players put their hand up for the accolade but his general nuisance around the park coupled with setting up Jimmy Cowan's score, Richie McCaw edges out Paul Hodgson, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Lewis Moody.
Moment of the match: We have just covered it. New Zealand's powerful winger stood up two tacklers deep in English territory before feeding McCaw, who shipped the ball onto Cowan in the corner. Game over.
Villain of the match: Nothing to report.
Pen: Wilkinson 2
For New Zealand:
Pen: Carter 4
England: 15 Mark Cueto, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Ayoola Erinle, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 James Haskell, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Steve Borthwick (c), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 David Wilson, 18 Louis Deacon, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Danny Care, 21 Shane Geraghty, 22 Mathew Tait.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan , 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson , 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 John Afoa, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Tamati Ellison.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match officials: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)
Assessor: Patrick Robin (France)
By Adam Kyriacou