Winning by three tries to two, New Zealand controlled the appalling conditions in the second half to defeat England 21-24 at Twickenham.
Nowhere near their best but so effective in the way they handled the weather, the All Blacks put away a spirited England side to make it six wins out of the last seven In London.
A penalty try for the home side came too little too late as England paid for losing their way in the second half, when New Zealand rose to the fore in a chaotic second period where multiple refereeing decisions were questionable.
England though will learn a lot from this, despite the loss. They kept New Zealand honest, proving they can compete. Inexperience in the end cost them as the penalties crept up and their composure was washed away with the flood from above, not to mention a weak kicking performance.
Examining the draw for next year’s Rugby World Cup before Saturday, a final between these two appears likely. New Zealand will have taken plenty from this contest, England too.
The home side might have lacked Tests caps in comparison but they weren’t intimidated. Twickenham has become the venue Stuart Lancaster has always wanted in their last three games, truly deafening.
Jonny May’s solo extravaganza caused delirium. Even the best can’t account for pace and Conrad Smith has played enough Tests to know that, as the Gloucester wing burned him and had too much speed for Israel Dagg to cover across.
Back in 2012 a fast start rattled the All Blacks and England went for it again – Farrell pumping an early penalty into the corner in a sign of intent, even if no points came from it, as New Zealand defended for their lives. Kyle Eastmond’s pass was perfect, but Mike Brown couldn’t gather it in.
May was everywhere, gunning to prove a point but so where the All Blacks as they soaked up England’s attack and then repelled it back at them.
All starting from Ben Smith’s magic aerial take, a missed tackle on Jerome Kaino created the field position for Aaron Cruden to power over and just do enough with the grounding. Like Farrell before him, he couldn’t convert.
Successive penalties from Farrell countered by a late hit by Dylan Hartley on Cruden left the score at 11-8.
Not often do New Zealand squander chances but the customary offload out the back from Sonny Bill Williams found grass instead of hands, with England warned.
Penalties however flowed the home side’s way, Owen Franks was bemused at best by the scrum penalty decision of Nigel Owens but there was no further punishment as Farrell missed a drop goal.
Chris Robshaw’s discrepancy at the breakdown let Cruden levels things up, but Farrell had the final say, three more points giving England a deserved lead at half-time.
Key players fell by the wayside with Courtney Lawes and Brodie Retallick departing early as Cruden missed a penalty to tie the scores at the start of the second half, England keeping their nervy, slender advantage.
A silent Twickenham is normally a sign of the things to come and Richie McCaw rounded off a superb break from Kieran Read and Franks into space. Even with Dagg’s poor pass, New Zealand were never going to let that chance slip away.
McCaw’s score lit a match under his side as they picked up the pace, surging forward with ball in hand as England threatened to let all their good work be wiped out.
Increasingly scrappy as each breakdown sucked up the clock, Sam Whitelock nearly picked England’s pocket with the ball waiting on the line. The giant snuck through the ruck but his contact with the ball was judged to be forward rather than downward, an almighty narrow call with the score at 14-16.
A rush of blood from Dane Coles put New Zealand down to 14 men, kicking out on the floor after Hartley cynically pulled him back into the ruck.
Heavy rain made tactical kicking essential with the All Blacks winning the battle, as Care and Farrell struggled.
Cruden’s cross-field kick and then Savea’s chip over the top had Semesa Rokoduguni scrambling, not for the first time on a quiet but solid debut.
A five-metre scrum in the left corner put the All Blacks in prime position to strike, however Savea uncharacteristically let the ball drop off his fingertips as England escaped again.
You’d have never known England were the team with 15 men at this point. New Zealand’s grip on the contest was tighter than ever but Beauden Barrett produced a howler of a penalty attempt to keep the gap at only two.
A second chance came shortly after when Sonny Bill Williams flew through the defence but England were only punished with three points, Barrett this time making no mistake.
The try from Charlie Faumuina shortly after though, his first for the All Blacks, epitomised New Zealand’s dominance of the conditions as he burrowed over from close range and looked to seal the match.
England tried to get a late try to have something to take into next weekend’s clash with the Springboks and the World Cup beyond and a penalty try was the result, after one too many offences by their visitors.
Thirty seconds remained with England down by three – a glimmer of hope at least.
There was to be no miracle though, as New Zealand extended their winning run over next year’s World Cup hosts to five straight games.
Man of the Match: An early departure but the impact of Jerome Kaino was enormous, starting the build-up for Cruden’s score.
Moment of the Match: Three minutes in and Jonny May’s screaming run showed that England meant business.
Villain of the Match: The age it took for a decision to be made was unnecessary but a yellow card was the right call for Dane Coles. Even with your shirt pulled, you can’t do that.
Tries: May, Penalty Try
Pens: Farrell 3
For New Zealand:
Tries: Cruden, McCaw, Faumuina
Pens: Cruden 2, Barrett
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Anthony Watson
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
- Planet Rugby