- First 40 minutes in Hamilton was as tough as Lancaster has endured
- Head coach calls for accuracy to control field position and territory in big games
England’s first-half capitulation in the third Test in Hamilton was as tough a 40 minutes as Stuart Lancaster has endured in three seasons at the helm and the head coach said they must become more accurate to compete with the world’s best.
The All Blacks scored four tries through Julian Savea and Aaron Smith in a first half punctuated by missed tackles and sparkling attacking play after England conceded territory and momentum from the off.
Although Marland Yarde’s opportunistic try after the restart promoted an even second half built on the team’s unquestionable resolve, but the 29-6 deficit left England with too much to do.
New Zealand equalled the record of 17 consecutive Test wins and completed a 3-0 series win with the 36-13 win and Lancaster acknowledged the undoubted quality in their ranks.
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“We definitely made errors that put us under pressure – not kicking off 10 metres at the first play, kicking the ball out on the full having taken the ball back in our 22 put us under pressure,” he said. “But equally there was some high-quality play from them as well, which the tops teams will do.
“We needed to play more accurately. You need to control field position and territory and we weren’t accurate enough by far in the first half and put ourselves under huge pressure.
“Once they got that momentum in our half, their driving lineout and the way they narrowed up our defence caused us problems out wide and that was plain for all to see. Fair play to the boys, second half they got a grasp of it and we played an awful lot better.”
After suffering the relentless pressure of 71 per cent territory and 60 per cent possession in the first half, England started to force errors from the hosts and improved as an attacking force with hard running forwards and intelligent promptings from scrum half Ben Youngs.
Yarde crossed the try line for a second time too, only to be held up by Cory Jane, before a fine covering tackle from Savea denied the Harlequins-bound wing a first brace in Test rugby.
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Lancaster revealed that not a lot was said in the dressing room, the 12-minute half time was more for individual soul-searching for players who they had performed nowhere near their individual and collective standards.
“They knew they had let themselves down and they knew at moments like that you have to look inside yourself and decide which way you want to turn,” he said. “You either turn and give up and it becomes 60 or you get in and you fight and you show some character, and that’s what we did.”
England have not lost three successive Test matches under Lancaster; the last time was November 2008 when Australia, South Africa and New Zealand left Twickenham Stadium with victories.
Lancaster will speak to the players as a group before depart for home, with the priority to remind them of the progress they made this season.
Despite the five-try anguish in Hamilton, the previous two Tests were lost by a total margin of six points against a team which has only lost one of their last 38 matches. And this with a side that was showing nine changes for the first Test, five changes for the second and then seven changes for the series finale.
“We will talk about the bigger picture, we will remind them of the success of the season and how far we have come as a group, Lancaster added. “For me it’s about moving forwards and thinking about how we can get better individually and collectively.
“You take learnings out of every game, particularly the defeats. We won’t review the game with the players before we fly as it is too raw and it is too close to the game. But I’ll clip it up and put notes on it and it will all be available for the players. They’re diligent enough and professional enough to want to go through it and want to take the lessons out of it.”