Match report: England vs New Zealand

Nov 8 • General News, International, World Rugby • 1979 Views • Comments Off on Match report: England vs New Zealand

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Photo: Anton Geyser
Written by: William Brown – Rugby15

New Zealand overturned a half-time deficit of 11-14 to beat England 24-21 at Twickenham in a rugby test match that was dubbed as a dress rehearsal for a possible World Cup 2015 showdown at the same venue.

The match did not live up to expectations as a spectacle, but the home side will rue the fact that they went into half time only three points up after enjoying a dominant period over a slightly out of sorts world champion.
England surged into the lead after four minutes when left wing Jonny May showed a beautiful turn of pace to outstrip first the Kiwi outside centre, Conrad Smith, and then fullback Israel Dagg. The conversion was pulled wide by England number 10, Owen Farrell.

May was robbed of a further opportunity of scoring only minutes later when he failed to field a well-placed box kick by England scrumhalf, Danny Care. Moments later the home side lost another opportunity to score when fullback Mike Brown knocked on in a very favourable position.

The visitors were next to score after Ben Smith did exceptionally well to gather an up-and-under. The resultant move saw All Black flanker Jerome Kaino force his way through three defenders to put Aaron Cruden away for an unconverted try.

England continued to dominate the rest of the first half with the only points coming from an exchange of penalties from Farrell and a strangely off-form Cruden.

The All Blacks’ best chance of scoring came when Sonny-Bill Williams showed what fans of rugby union have been missing for the past two years as he scythed through the England defence. This time, though, his trade mark off-load was not accurate, and England scrambled to regain possession and drive the visitors back.

Farrell gave England the 14-11 lead on the stroke of half-time after the Kiwi’s were penalised at a ruck following a sniping break from scrumhalf Care. England coach, Stuart Lancaster, must have been extremely happy at the break, with his team showing promise and in with a real chance of upsetting the world champions.

The second half was, however, a totally different story. The All Blacks piled on the pressure and proved just why they were the number one team on the planet. Their patient build-up play and excellent ball retention soon proved fruitful when a deft Kieran Reed pass put Owen Franks into space. England scrambled back on defence but could do nothing to prevent Kiwi skipper Richie McCaw going over the whitewash to provide his team with a 16-14 lead. Cruden hooked an awful conversion wide.

Soon after, the All Blacks were denied another try. An England clearance by Kyle Eastmond was charged down and England’s Fijian-born debutant, Semesa Rokoduguni scrambled back but was isolated on his tryline. Samuel Whitelock seemed to ground the ball at the ensuing ruck, but the TMO decided that he had actually knocked it on.

It was at this stage of the game that the New Zealanders had established total dominance. England were allowed to remain within reach only through an errant Cruden boot. This did not improve after Beauden Barrett replaced the All Black pivot.

The best period of the match for the world champions ensued as Sonny-Bill Williams ran a beautiful angle to split the hosts’ defence. He was halted just short of the tryline, and England were penalised for offside play. Barrett knocked over the penalty to stretch the Kiwi lead to 19-14. Soon after the New Zealanders showed their class to put the ball through 22 phases. Their patience and excellent ball retention was rewarded when replacement prop Charlie Faumuina scored to stretch the lead to 24-14. Barrett failed with the conversion.

England’s resilience, though, was rewarded late in the second half when a series of penalties against the All Blacks resulted within striking distance. Good scrumming saw referee Nigel Owens left with no choice but to award a penalty try to the hosts. This was converted by George Ford to bring up the final score of 24-21 to New Zealand.

England will take a lot of heart from this match, if only for the fact that they managed to dominate for long periods in the first half.

And the All Blacks? This was a performance where the purring Rolls Royce which is New Zealand rugby hardly got into third gear. That, though, was enough to ease to a victory which was more convincing than the final score would suggest. The Kiwi’s still reign supreme. In a year’s time at the same venue they may successfully retain their crown. On the evidence of today’s match, England still have a long way to go before they can be deemed worthy successors.

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