New Zealand 28 England 27: England need to match belief of All Blacks, says Tom Wood
Wood feels that England made some wrong decisions in key areas that ultimately cost them the game
England admitted they had missed ‘‘an historic opportunity’’ after losing to the All Blacks by a single point, so resigning themselves to flying home on the painful end of another series defeat in the southern hemisphere.
Next week’s final Test is now redundant after the world champions scored three outstanding tries in 20 second-half minutes to win a highly charged game in the South Island.
“Absolutely, it feels like we’ve let a historic opportunity slip away from us,” said Tom Wood, the Northampton flanker, who drew no comfort from the fact that England matched the New Zealanders in the try count and finished much the stronger, scoring 14 late points to narrow the gap to the smallest possible margin. “At half-time, it was there for us. When they came at us after interval, we needed to get our hands on the ball and build some pressure. We didn’t do it.”
Rather than celebrate the fact that England are patently more competitive than in any of their previous series stretching back more than 40 years, Wood chose to acknowledge the hosts’ ruthlessness in winning important matches. “They’re the ones with the biggest targets on their heads, so they’re used to teams getting out of the blocks and really going after them,” he said, admiringly. “They know what they’re doing – they back their fitness and their skills – and when they establish ascendancy, you can sense their belief growing. They’re the most dangerous team of all.”
New Zealand have not lost an international match in their own country for five years and have now won 32 home Tests on the bounce – a remarkable record in any era, in any sport. It is a sure sign of England’s improvement under Lancaster’s coaching regime that the hosts’ initial reaction was one of relief, but their performance here was significantly better than the error-strewn display in Auckland last weekend and they will fancy their chances of completing a clean sweep for the concluding encounter. “We need a big finale,” said Chris Robshaw, the England captain. “We still want to win a game down here and we feel it’s attainable, as long as we stay professional. We’re definitely ready to go again.”
Ben Smith ran England ragged throughout the 80 minutes
Senior members of the All Black camp had some kind words for the defeated tourists. “We’re learning a lot about ourselves and quite a bit about them,” said Steve Hansen, the head coach. “As there is a World Cup in England next year, that information will be valuable. Traditionally, the South Africans have been our biggest rivals. They still are, probably. The Australians? They like to think of themselves as our big brothers. But particularly in recent years, our matches with England have been real contests.”
For Hansen’s opposite number those sentiments were a poor substitute for what might have been. “The All Blacks were exceptional in the third quarter and I think our players deserve credit for not throwing in the towel, but it’s very disappointing to come away with nothing after working so hard,” said Lancaster. “We knew New Zealand would be at their best off turnover ball, yet we kicked loosely on a couple of occasions and probably tried to play too much in our own half.
“The next step for us is to improve our decision-making at the highest level. We need to look at our game management, especially when we’re between our own 22 and the halfway line. ”
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