The triumph beyond belief

New Zealand 13 England 15: Global warning as Woodward hails staggering show of guts
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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward described it as a triumph for "guts, determination and heroics", and the national coach was not exaggerating. England's 15-13 victory over New Zealand here at the Westpac Stadium, their first on All Black soil in 30 years, established a new record - they have now won 12 consecutive Tests for the first time in their history - and confirmed them as the world's top-ranked team. It also erased the last lingering memories of the 1998 "tour of hell", when Woodward's understrength tourists were laughed out of New Zealand after conceding 234 points in five matches.

Clive Woodward described it as a triumph for "guts, determination and heroics", and the national coach was not exaggerating. England's 15-13 victory over New Zealand here at the Westpac Stadium, their first on All Black soil in 30 years, established a new record - they have now won 12 consecutive Tests for the first time in their history - and confirmed them as the world's top-ranked team. It also erased the last lingering memories of the 1998 "tour of hell", when Woodward's understrength tourists were laughed out of New Zealand after conceding 234 points in five matches.

Jonny Wilkinson, by no means at his best but devastatingly accurate with his goal-kicking in difficult conditions, landed four penalties and a drop goal to see England home in a tough, occasionally brutal battle of wills. Doug Howlett, the All Black full-back, scored the game's only try deep in the final quarter, but Carlos Spencer missed four kicks at goal.

The game's turning point came in the second-half when the New Zealanders failed to capitalise after England were reduced to 13 men following the temporary dismissals of their experienced back-row forwards, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio, for ball-killing offences.

The remnants of the England pack had to survive a series of second-half scrums on their own line, and their successful manning of the barricades proved crucial to the outcome. Frustration then got the better of the All Blacks late in the game, when Josh Lewsey, the Wasps full-back, was mercilessly trampled at the bottom of a ruck and forced to leave the field with head wounds.

"Certain things in rugby are a little taboo," Lewsey said afterwards. "I was stamped a couple of times, and then managed to move my head as it was coming again. I jumped up to have a go back, but Martin Johnson [the England captain] told me to shut up and take the bullet." Ali Williams, the young lock forward from Auckland, was later reported by the Australian citing official, Michael Somes, and ordered to appear before a disciplinary tribunal.

Woodward, who toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions 20 years ago and was forced to swallow a Test whitewash, said the victory gave him "huge satisfaction" and described his team's defensive performance as the best he had ever witnessed. "Our visit here in 1998 was a low point in the history of English rugby," he added. "This is one of the high points."

John Mitchell, who had not previously suffered a home defeat as All Black coach, said England had given themselves a "fantastic psychological boost" in the build-up towards this autumn's World Cup in Australia, while Reuben Thorne, the New Zealand captain, credited the tourists with an "outstanding defensive display".

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