Planet Rugby

Ruthless All Blacks restore pride

14th June 2014 10:21

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ben smith julian savea england new zealand

Scorers: Smith & Savea

An outstanding second half display from world champions New Zealand clinched the Test series by beating England 28-27 in Dunedin.

England had at one point led 10-0, but that felt a long old time ago when they were being battered relentlessly by the All Blacks deep into the second half. The score might have been tight at the final whistle, but England had been blown away by the time Mike Brown and Chris Ashton crossed.

The verdict coming out of Auckland was that England's best chance of beating New Zealand on their own turf had been and gone. That rings more true now than ever. As the game progressed, so their error count duly rose, despite their grit and integrity.

A flick of the switch, so typical of the All Blacks, was the surge they needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck and go for the win to clinch the series.

It was played at the pace that New Zealand complained they didn't get to play at in Auckland, at the speed that England thrive at with Danny Care scuttling around at the base - although this was far from his best game in a white shirt.

Beating New Zealand would have given England a phenomenal accolade, but regardless of the result they have proven they could compete against the best in their own backyard. Add in the factor of Twickenham and they will be a force at the World Cup, make no bones about it.

When the volume under the Forsyth Barr roof rose and the All Blacks began flowing effortlessly into space, the game was always going to be up. Ben Smith delivered a masterclass, feeding off England's loose kicking game, while Julian Savea was monstrous.

Jaco Peyper looked set to rule with an iron fist with New Zealand repeatedly disrupting England's maul illegally, Farrell adding the first points.

So much was made of McCaw's absence in the first Test, not in body but effort, that a monster performance was expected in Dunedin.

After conceding the first penalty, his missed tackle on Marland Yarde was unbelievable. The young winger was too sharp, too strong to be stopped.

England had burst out of the blocks but had so long to go. New Zealand would inevitably respond, Ben Smith slipping Luther Burrell's tackle to start an attack that ended with three points for Cruden.

The All Blacks number ten was eager to test the fielding abilities of Manu Tuilagi in his new wing role, a troublesome bounce ending in a penalty when Mike Brown held on. He couldn't land the shot at goal.

Nor could Farrell, handed a long-range opportunity after Ma'a Nonu was penalised for obstruction.

Little inaccuracies were made enormous by the importance of this fixture, Care's kicking not what it could be, Ben Smith slipping as he cleared to touch. Make no mistake, England were on a par with the All Blacks. They still led 10-3 creeping up to the half hour mark.

Hopefully it was aerobic enough for the All Blacks, a mad passage including a kick to touch by David Wilson and a full fledged sprint from Manu Tuilagi down the wing, stopped by a truly outstanding tackle from Ben Smith.

The All Blacks had the final say, Joe Marler pinged at the scrum for Cruden to land his second penalty. England lead by four but would they regret their missed chances? New Zealand couldn't keep dropping easy passes as Cory Jane had done forever.

England's over-exuberance backfired. An offload from Twelvetrees that wasn't necessary fell loose and the All Blacks countered with devastating effect, Cruden's dummy freeing the space for Savea to hand Ben Smith the simplest of finishes. New Zealand finally ahead at 13-10.

Farrell immediately tied things up with a penalty as Dylan Hartley entered the fray as England looked for a second wave, but Aaron Smith should have given New Zealand a second try. Flying up the touchline with Messam outside he was shut down by Farrell.

New Zealand were unrelenting, picking up the pace as Nonu found the space outside Burrell and fed Savea for New Zealand's second try. The third had to come, Ben Smith's wizardry tearing England to pieces. Had the final pass from Conrad Smith to Messam not been butchered then the light would have been turned out.

There was time for that moment. New Zealand's maul, reminiscent of England's dominance in that area back in the first half, yielded another penalty. The damage of Farrell going to the bin was enormous.

Barrett made no mistake after hitting the post earlier on. At 21-13 down with 14 men, England's road back looked too long.

Nonu made sure of that. With extra space and freed by a long pass from Conrad Smith, the centre was too fast and too strong to be brought down by Yarde and Burrell as he cut his way infield. It was an exceptional, ruthless score.

Restored to 15 men England did have another score in them, Mike Brown delivering after a contentious call at the previous ruck by going on his own and spinning out of the tackle of Aaron Smith and Jane to just about get the ball to ground.

England though were still out of reach at 28-20, but it was an act of defiance. They showed a ton of character, but lacked the extra touch of class and final pass. There will be question marks over the selection of Twelvetrees, Burrell, and on moving Tuilagi to the wing.

By the end bizarrely England fell only a point short, some Tuilagi magic and the passing of Brown giving Chris Ashton a run-in to leave England short only by a single point. There is pride to take from that, but - crucially - it wasn't enough to win.

Based on the last two weeks, you want to watch these two sides take each other on again and again.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries: B.Smith, Savea, Nonu
Cons: Cruden, Barrett
Pens: Cruden 2, Barrett

For England:
Tries: Yarde, Brown, Ashton
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 2
Yellow Card: Farrell

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Victor Vito, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Manu Tuilagi, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Chris Ashton.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Jérôme Garcès (France)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

by Ben Coles

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