England vs New Zealand match report: All Blacks reign supreme as it pours for England

England 21 New Zealand 24: Controversial calls hurt England as they stumble against the champions

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The Independent Online

Close-run losses will not cut it for England in their home World Cup this time next year, so it was a distraught captain Chris Robshaw who knocked on with the last piece of possession as his team strained in vain to rein in a ruthless New Zealand.

England’s supporters raged at a series of marginal decisions from Welsh referee Nigel Owens that helped the All Blacks gain a foothold in the match, and go on to a fifth consecutive win in this fixture. England led 14-11 at the break, but they made error upon error and suffered a long, slow black death in the second half.

Robshaw’s men mounted a late stand on the All Black goal-line, with the skipper arguably making the wrong call as he chose to scrummage from penalties as the seconds ticked away and New Zealand led 24-14. A penalty try converted by replacement fly-half George Ford raised hopes of a different result but an exhausted Robshaw fumbled a pass, and the final whistle went.

“We felt we had control of the second half bar the last couple of minutes,” said Robshaw’s opposite number Richie McCaw, who marked his 135th cap by scoring the try that put his team ahead five minutes into the second half, and they hardly looked back, keeping England out even while visiting hooker Dane Coles went to the sin bin for kicking Danny Care. It was not in the same league of violence as Jamie Joseph’s notorious stamp on Kyran Bracken in the 1993 match here. But it enraged the Twickenham crowd, who felt New Zealand got the rub from Owens, as if the world’s number one ranked team need any extra help.

 

It hurt all the more to lose considering England had made a wondrous start with a try in three minutes from an unpromising position. Semesa Rokoduguni’s first touch of the ball on his England debut brought the Fijian-born soldier a full metal jacket of a tackle from Julian Savea, the New Zealand try machine who had scored eight tries in his four previous tilts at the English.

But the home team held on to the ball and recycled it from right to left via visionary long passes from Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt out to Rokodugini’s fellow wing Jonny May. From the halfway line May’s brilliant sprint skinned Conrad Smith and carrying him down the touchline to burn off Israel Dagg and Aaron Cruden. A great start, but when another England chance to score went begging, still in the opening 10 minutes, in the face of hard New Zealand defence in the ‘red zone’, it set the alarm bells clanging.

Sure enough, the remainder of the points in the first half were harder won, and fortune favoured the All Blacks as two of their three scores were hugely debateable. There were three penalties and a missed dropped goal by England’s fly-half Owen Farrell.

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Jonny May runs in for his first international try

But New Zealand came out the right side of two borderline calls by the officials. They equalised May’s early effort as Courtney Lawes missed a tackle on Jerome Kaino, and Cruden lunged through Robshaw’s tackle. There was a big doubt over whether Cruden made the line but Owens spurned any video review. Then, for the first of Cruden’s two penalties before the break, England’s hooker Dylan Hartley was pulled up by touch judge Dudley Phillips for a late tackle on the All Black No.10. Hartley probably paid for his lumbering approach that hinted at some malice aforethought.

England lost Lawes with a golf-ball sized lump on the temple after a collision with Sam Whitelock, and brought on a second debutant in the Saracens second row, George Kruis. The Bath wing Anthony Watson made it three new boys in all, later on. With 11 absentees including seven British Lions at start of play, it all tested England’s depth of resources. They had only five starters from the famous win over the All Blacks here two autumns ago; New Zealand had nine, not to mention a daunting 13 wins in 14 meetings with England since 2003, and 42 wins and two draws in the last 46 matches overall.

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Richie McCaw smiles with the Hillary Shield

So maybe they should not feel too badly at gradually conceding the initiative as time wore on and heavy rain lashed down. McCaw finished Dagg’s pass after Kruis misjudged a defensive rush, allowing Kieran Read valuable space. Whitelock almost scored, but was judged to have knocked on as England fretted on their own line. It became a theme as New Zealand pressure forced the hosts back, and made life horribly uncomfortable for Care and Mike Brown. For all the promise of Kyle Eastmond in an unfamiliar midfield, and Robshaw’s workaholic contribution, England could find no momentum.

Bath's Dave Attwood carried strongly, but no one outshone the immense contribution all around the field by Whitelock, including a charge down that embarrassed Eastmond.

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Attwood impressed both in the air and on the ground

Coles’s yellow card for lashing out as he was held by Hartley was little respite. Beauden Barrett, on for Cruden, missed a simple penalty on 63 minutes but made amends two minutes later when a scrambling tackle on Sonny Bill Williams by Ford – now forming with Farrell what many see as England’s optimal 10-12 combination – only led to an offside penalty. With 71 minutes gone, New Zealand went through a blistering 21 phases of quality continuity and handling before prop Charlie Faumuina flopped over the line. Barrett missed the conversion in the wet but the 10-point lead proved to be enough.

Line-ups:

England: M Brown; S Rokoduguni (A Watson 62), B Barritt, K Eastmond (G Ford 65), J May; O Farrell, D Care (B Youngs 62); J Marler (M Mullan 55), D Hartley (R Webber 74), D Wilson (K Brookes 74), D Attwood, C Lawes (G Kruis 23), T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Vunipola (B Morgan 53).

New Zealand: I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith (R Crotty 48), SB Williams, J Savea; A Cruden (B Barrett, 60), A Smith (TJ Perenara 67); W Crockett (B Franks 60), D Coles (K Mealamu 67), O Franks (C Faumuina 48), B Retallick (P Tuipulotu 41), S Whitelock, J Kaino (Mealamu 61-67, L Messam 67), R McCaw (capt), K Read.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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