All Blacks Up A Gear

Both sides played really positively. All Black coach, Steve Hansen

A high class test

By Roger Childs

Yarde scoresIt was an entertaining match played with plenty of skill, commitment and action. Six tries compared to the single late game score in Auckland made the second All Black – England test an exciting contest. The visitors started well and scored early when McCaw was surprisingly brushed aside by Yarde. (See alongside.) There was also a late charge by the English in the last few minutes and their third try was the result of superb passing. However, the ball was not grounded over the line for their second try, but it was awarded nonetheless when the TMO amazingly disregarded the rules and the referee got tired of peering at endless replays.

All Blacks better on the day

The final 28-27 scoreline probably flattered the English, however they did have the better of the first half and finished strongly. The All Blacks however were getting on top late in the first half and cut loose in the second spell.

The three tries scored showed the home team at their best.

Savea scores ~ A breakout from their own half saw Cruden, Savea and Ben Smith combine brilliantly with well timed passing ending in the fullback dotting down under the posts.

~ Aaron Smith made a great break down field shortly after, but seemed to have blown the chance for another try when he failed to pass to an unmarked player. However from the ensuing ruck, with some excellent work by Nonu, Savea scored in the corner.

~ Then an attack down the right flank saw Conrad Smith make a key break. He passed to Nonu who stood up two English defenders to score near the corner.

A fourth try should have been scored, but Conrad Smith’s high pass to Messam when behind the flanker as the tryline beckoned.

Stepping up

When it comes to upping the pace in the third quarter of tight games they have no equals. Robert Kitson , Guardian rugby reporter

The All Blacks started poorly and were penalised three times in the first three minutes.  Then came Yarde’s try and the English were quickly out to 10-0. However as often happens, the All Black juggernaut got into gear in the second half and the backs started to run freely. The fundamental errors of poor passing, and knocking the ball on which plagued their performance in the first test were largely absent and consequently the tries came.

It was a much improved forward effort.

  • The front row all played well and Coles didn’t miss a throw in the lineouts.
  • The All Blacks outscrummaged the English who, when going back, milked a couple of penalties by wheeling the scrum.
  • Retallick continued his excellent form from Auckland and was superb in taking plenty of ball at the front of the lineout.
  • Kaino showed strength in the tight and the loose, and McCaw came in to his own in the second spell.
  • Messam’s game improved, but he will be the loose forward casualty if Read returns next week.
  • It was good to see the All Blacks employ some successful driving mauls later in the game, an English tactic which created some problems for the home side early in the match.

Conrad SmithIn the backs, Nonu was back to his rampaging best and Savea provided plenty of power on the left wing having much the better of Tuilagi who was the standout back in the first test. Ben Smith has always played well at fullback and is reminiscent of the legendary Christian Cullen in his ability to be at the right place at the right time injecting pace as the extra man in the backline.

Conrad Smith was as dependable as ever whether it be crucial tackling, sharp passing or making half breaks. However Aaron Smith was not up to his best and had two kicks charged down and two others go high but not far.

Can the English beat the All Blacks?

England attackThey have been highly competitive in both tests so far, but more so in Auckland last week. However the injection of the top players missing for the first test made a difference, especially in the backline led by Owen Farrell. The new combinations will be more settled in Hamilton next Saturday. However Tuilagi needs to be at centre where he has proved more than a handful for the All Blacks in previous tests.

However in answer to the question, the All Blacks would have to play badly to give the English a real chance. The third test will definitely be competitive as the other two have been, however for the home side there is the powerful incentive of winning a record equalling 17 consecutive test wins.