New Zealand 28 England 27 match report: All Blacks blow away England to clinch Test series victory with a game to spare

England led at the break but tries from Smith, Savea and Nonu took the game out of the reach of a valiant England side

Forsyth Barr Stadium

If hell does not exist, there is always the South Island of New Zealand on a cold winter’s night with the All Blacks in the mood for blood. The scoreline may suggest that England are inching ever closer to the world champions – a five-point defeat in Auckland in the opening Test of this series, a one-point heartbreaker yesterday – but while they are not a million miles away, this was a more clear-cut victory for Richie McCaw and his silver-ferned compatriots, who played their most brilliant rugby when the game was in the balance.

The damage was caused – or to be more accurate, the havoc was wreaked – in the third quarter of the contest: the point in a match when the very finest All Black sides have, since time immemorial, cranked up the tempo and punished their opponents most severely. Four points behind at the interval and lucky to be that near, they rattled off 15 points between the 43 and 59 minutes to leave the tourists wondering what had hit them – and the tries they scored in that period, through the full-back Ben Smith and the left wing Julian Savea, were minor masterpieces of execution.

They moved further ahead when the ferocious centre Ma’a Nonu, in full warpaint for this game after an unusually conciliatory performance at Eden Park eight days previously, cut inside the England wing Marland Yarde for a third touchdown that might well have heralded a deeply unpleasant last 15 minutes or so for the visitors. That they found the wherewithal to score two tries of their own at the last knockings spoke volumes for their spirit, but in reality, they were a beaten side long before the final whistle.

Yet for 40 minutes, they looked for all the world as though they had the measure of their hosts. A confident, muscular start from a pumped-up pack forced the All Blacks into errors on the back foot, the first of which – an illegal side entry at a driving maul – presented Owen Farrell with an awkward left-sided penalty shot. The boos and whistles from a capacity crowd reinforced the impression that the whole of New Zealand was in a high state of nervous tension. The noise did not distract the young Saracens outside-half for so much as a split-second.

 

There was further reward, infinitely more valuable, on seven minutes. England had already threatened the All Black line following Joe Launchbury’s chargedown of an Aaron Smith clearance, but the siege had been repulsed. No matter. Yarde, operating close to his forwards off a line-out, took a short pass from Danny Care, bust the tackle of McCaw – of all people on God’s rugby earth – and scored to the left of the sticks. Farrell converted and the tourists were on the fast road to dreamland.

That journey was interrupted by a penalty from Aaron Cruden following Ben Smith’s breaking of Luther Burrell in open field, but even though the New Zealanders were scrummaging more heavily than in Auckland – the silver-ferned heavy mob must have taken the most fearful rollicking from their coaches in the build-up - England still felt good about themselves as the interval beckoned. Indeed, they could and should have scored a second try before heading for the tea and oranges.

When an All Black attack broke down with Cory Jane’s fumble close to the left touchline, the ball fell to Manu Tuilagi, making his first international appearance as a wing. The human bowling ball picked up cleanly and set sail for the New Zealand line without a black shirt in his line of vision. Sadly, he was born with a midfielder’s pace rather than a finisher’s speed. Ben Smith, spectacularly effective following his own positional relocation from wing to full-back, ran him down and snuffed out the danger. It was a sensational defensive coup and in the blink of an eye, England found themselves back in their own half, watching Cruden reduce the deficit with a second penalty.

England weren't good enough, laments Wood

It looked like a game-changer at the time and so it proved. Three minutes into the second half, the All Blacks counter-attacked from deep and swept in for the first of their tries, Cruden doing much of the approach work before finding Savea with an exquisite pass delivered at pace – a delivery so cleverly delayed that it wrong-footed the English cover and allowed the wing to find Ben Smith unmarked on an inside track to the line.

Even though Farrell levelled it at 13-apiece with a long-range penalty, the writing was on the wall: Care was making too many errors at scrum-half, Burrell was off his game in defence and hard as Billy Twelvetrees worked as his side’s principal attacking architect, too much possession was ending up on the deck. When Savea, the sharpest of thorns in red-rose flesh over the last 19 months, took an inspired round-the-corner pass from Jerome Kaino to score in the left corner – his fifth try against England in three appearances, the All Blacks had a lead they would not lose.

Farrell’s spell in the cooler for some ball-killing on the England line did not help one little bit – during his absence, Beauden Barrett nailed a penalty and Nonu bagged his touchdown – but there was at least some light in the darkness on his return. Twelvetrees created a try for the combative Brown with a fast pass off the right hand before Yarde and Tuilagi combined in overtime to manufacture a run-in for Chris Ashton.

Another minute on the clock might have made it interesting, but in truth, the right team won.

New Zealand: B Smith, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden (Barrett, 50), A Smith (Perenara, 76); T Woodcock (Crockett, 65), D Coles (Mealamu, 60), O Franks (Faumuina, 65), B Retallick (Retallick, 76), S Whitelock, L Messam (Vito, 65), R McCaw, J Kaino.

England: M Brown; M Tuilagi, L Burrell (Aston, 71), B Twelvetrees, M Yarde; O Farrell, D Care (Youngs, 71); J Marler (Mullan, 71), R Webber (Hartley, 47), D Wilson (Brookes, 76), J Launchbury (Lawes, 56), G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw, B Morgan (Vunipola, 56).

Referee: J Peyper (South Africa)

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