- England lose by a single point in Dunedin
- Three tries in 20 second-half minutes sees All Blacks edge series
New Zealand 28 England 27
England were undone by a second-half power surge from New Zealand as tries from Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu were enough for a 28-27 victory in the second Test in Dunedin.
Marland Yarde’s fine early try illuminated a fabulous start for the tourists at Forsyth Barr Stadium as Stuart Lancaster’s side built a 10-0 lead on the back of a series of line-breaks and power upfront.
A third-ever victory in New Zealand seemed on the cards at the break but the All Blacks, who missed a series of presentable chances in the opening 40, turned up the heat with three tries in an exceptional 20-minute second-half spell.
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Ma’a Nonu, winning the 90th cap of a glittering career, was the chief tormentor, producing a deft offload for Savea’s try and crashing through would-be tacklers for the third. Rocking from a period of incessant pressure, England showed the resolve and character synonymous with this side to respond late in the game with excellent tries from Mike Brown and Chris Ashton, but ultimately the gap was too much.
England started with the bolstered confidence of adding five star players to the side that had already pushed the hosts to the limit in Auckland seven days ago.
The forwards won a string of penalties – three in four minutes – in the tight to provide territory and momentum, with Farrell adding the first points of the night on four minutes. He arrowed a wonderful strike through the uprights after Brodie Retallick entered a maul illegally.
Then came Yarde’s moment, with the field position and possession gained by Joe Launchbury’s expertly executed charge-down on Aaron Smith. Wilson was inches away from a first Test try in the immediate aftermath and England went from flank to flank searching for the gap. New Zealand scrambled well to win a turnover and clear, but from the resultant lineout Yarde slipped through McCaw’s unusually weak tackle to dive over and be engulfed by his jubilant teammates.
New Zealand were rattled but surged back into the game as turnovers, big hits and line-breaks illuminated an absorbing half of rugby. Nonu, bouncing back from a poor first-Test display, broke the line and set up the field position for Cruden to get the All Blacks on the board with a simple penalty on nine minutes.
The poor handling which stunted New Zealand’s attacking momentum in the first Test reappeared as England escaped on a number of occasions. Savea’s scything run was pulled back for obstruction by Nonu, with Farrell sending the resultant penalty wide from the halfway line.
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Attention pre-game focused on Manu Tuilagi’s first start on the right wing but Yarde was more heavily involved, only prevented from another line-break by Conrad Smith’s superb cover tackle.
New Zealand then threatened at the end of the half. But Cory Jane knocked on when it looked easier to score to set up a frantic passage of play.
Tuilagi scooped up the loose ball and charged 90 metres, only to be eventually hauled down by that man Ben Smith. It was a fabulous piece of work once more from the home-crowd favourite, who would soon prosper from his side’s renewed intensity after the break.
Cruden ended the half by trimming England’s lead to four after Joe Marler was pinged for an illegal bind at a scrum after the hooter had sounded. The visitors went in 10-6 up after a fine half featuring six line-breaks and powerful ball-carrying but were unprepared for the storm whipped up by Nonu and co. on the resumption.
Ben Smith, who was fabulous throughout his first start at full back, got on the end of a calm, clinical counter-attack on 42 minutes after England turned the ball over and Cruden and Savea set the Highlanders full back clear. Fly half Cruden added the extras but Farrell soon levelled the scores on 13-all after a scrum penalty.
That was a brief moment of respite for the defence as New Zealand sent wave after wave of runners blasting at the line from all conceivable angles. Savea got the second try on 50 minutes as England could not contain the speed of ball provided by New Zealand’s pumped up pack. Ben Smith, who else, leapt to claim a high ball and when possession came wide, Nonu and Jerome Kaino produced stunning offloads for Savea to trot over for his fifth try in three games against England and his 20th of a 21-game international career.
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Conrad Smith fluffed the final pass of a flowing move two minutes later – replacement fly half Beauden Barrett doubling the let-off by striking the post with a penalty – but the third try soon arrived.
Farrell was sent to the sin bin on after illegally stopping a New Zealand attack on the line and with the fly half off the field, Nonu took full advantage. Barrett had already extended the lead to 21-13 when Farrell saw yellow and after the All Blacks won possession in England’s half, quick passing put the Blues centre in space and he went past two tacklers to score just after the hour mark.
Barrett put the hosts 28-13 ahead but with the game seemingly gone, England roused themselves from the deck. This side is built on doggedness in adversity and Mike Brown made the finish interesting by twisting and turning over the line with 10 minutes to play. Farrell, back after his enforced rest, add the conversion to make the score 28-20.
Two scores adrift, England needed something to happen quickly but New Zealand played the territory game to run the clock down. After Kieran Brookes helped win a penalty at a five-metre scrum on his Test debut from the bench, fine play out wide from Tuilagi and Brown sent fellow replacement Ashton clear to score after the hooter had sounded. Farrell added the conversion but it was to no avail as McCaw lifted the Hilary Shield in celebration of a 16th successive win.
England’s 46-man squad must now lift themselves for the midweek Crusaders game in Christchurch on Tuesday, before the Test finale in Hamilton on Saturday. New Zealand have now won 35 of their last 37 Test matches – one of the finest records in world sport – but England will be encouraged by once again pushing them close.
England: Mike Brown, Manu Tuilagi, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Marland Yarde, Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury, David Wilson, Rob Webber, Joe Marler.
Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, Courtney Lawes, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Freddie Burns, Chris Ashton.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
Jaco Peyper (South Africa)