It was three tries apiece, but England won by 17 points. The margin flattered the home side, but their right to the victory is not in question. The English played an aggressive game with plenty of attacking back play, pinpoint tackling and precision kicking.
They were also generally hungrier at the breakdown and their forward driving was impressive. However in the end the large margin came down to the superior goal kicking of the English.
England thrash New Zealand 38-21! This is the view of Guardian columnist Simon Burton. Certainly the scoreline supports that conclusion, but in reality the game was much tighter than that.
The first half: an even contest but for the goal kicks
Despite there being no tries, there was plenty of action and entertainment in the first half. Three penalties and a drop goal gave the English an impressive 12 point lead at the break.
It could have been a much more even scoreline. If Jane hadn’t been ruled offside in a very marginal call in the eleventh minute, Messam would have scored under the posts. Furthermore if Dan Carter had kicked two penalties, which he would normally convert, the All Blacks could have had 13 points by half time. However as commentator Justin Marshall remarked if it’s not your day, it’s not your day.
A rash of tries
Coming back after half time, the English, with yet another successful penalty, pushed the score out to 15-0. The All Black response was rapid and within ten minutes two excellent tries to Savea and Read had the visitors only one point behind.
However three tries in eight minutes sealed the match for the English. Barritt and Ashton scored excellent tries after the usually impregnable All Black backline defence was breeched. Then a fortuitous intercept saw the powerful Tuilagi stroll over by the posts. Very quickly the score was out to 35-14. Game over.
Mistakes by normally reliable individuals were costly. Conrad Smith’s rushed defence created the opening for the first English try, Carter’s missed tackle led to the second and Keiran Read’s errant pass gifted the third.
The crowd was ecstatic and in term of entertainment you can’t beat 5 tries in 15 minutes. The All Blacks gained a late consolation try to Savea and it was only poor handling that denied them a fourth in the last few minutes.
Any positives for the All Blacks?
It hurts to lose the last test of the season and your unbeaten record. However there were a lot of positives in the way the All Blacks played.
- The three tries were well taken and showed the customary quick passing and excellent backing up we have come to expect.
- In the last few minutes it was all New Zealand and a fourth try would have come with better finishing.
- But for one knock-on, Victor Vito played superbly in his short time on the field. Late in the second half he had a storming 40 metre run down the touchline, gave a superb offload to Read as he was tackled, then featured at the ensuing ruck to send a dive pass out to the backs. Only an uncharacteristic final knock-on prevented a try.
- Corey Jane was the All Blacks best back with some wonderful breaks, fearless catching in the air and pinpoint kicking.
- There was a lot of good driving play down the middle from the forwards and the last few scrums saw the English pack going backwards.
An unexpected and historic victory
The English were not expected to win. They had come off defeats, admittedly by narrow margins, at the hands of Australia and South Africa. Meanwhile the All Blacks had easily beaten Scotland, Italy and Wales in the preceding weeks.
Mail Online journalist Chris Foy summed up the fervent wish of the local rugby writers: Go out and do us proud! Against the odds, showing no fear, that’s exactly what they did for the delighted English fans.