Written by James Price.
New Zealand continued their unbeaten run in 2013 with a hard-fought 30-22 victory over an impressive England team at Twickenham on Saturday.
New Zealand started spectacularly, with the sublime Kieran Read producing a sumptuous offload from the touchline to put the flying Salvea over the whitewash, and exploiting England’s narrow defensive line.
With the intensity of tackle and ruck increasing by the minute, the outstanding Read again exploited the wide fringes of England’s drift defence to power over for his 15th try in test rugby to take the score to 17-3, and at that moment even the most optimistic of England fans started to fear a cricket score that Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud of.
However, this England side, led by a massive performance from the back row, refused to roll over and die. At times, the finishing and handling did not match the ambition or power, but a series of All Black infringements allowed Owen Farrell to kick deep into the corner, setting up a series of driving mauls, which eventually allowed Launchbury to power over for a well deserved try after 23 minutes.
England rocked the All Blacks either side of half time; at times, showing a width and intensity that had been sorely lacking in their two previous autumnal victories. In short, the World Champions were struggling to cope with the wave of intensity created by the direct running of the England forwards, notably Courtney Lawes, Billy Vunipola and skipper Chris Robshaw, and the Kiwis looked something akin to shell shocked.
As the All Blacks infringed several times at ruck time, with players streaming in from all directions, New Zealand’s talisman Read received his marching orders from referee Craig Joubert for side entry. England used this to their advantage and turned the screw to get within four points of New Zealand at the interval.
The theme continued in the first ten minutes of the second half, and a brace of penalty goals by Owen Farrell took England to a fragile 2 point lead on 53rd minute mark.
With England challenging hard, the introduction of Ben Morgan for Billy Vunipola took the game up to new heights, as the Gloucester eight put in 20 minutes of power running that defined the phrase impact substitution.
However, New Zealand are not World Champions for nothing. Time and time again they’ve found a way to win in every situation imaginable, and this time it was the outstanding Ma’a Nonu who broke the English hearts with a coruscating break and a no less brilliant off-load around the back of Courtney Lawes to seal England’s fate as Savea powered over for his second try.
England can also rue their exit strategy in the last ten minutes. Four line-outs lost in quick succession put unnecessary pressure on the home side, and moving forward, they will look to be more effective at getting out of their own 22 when pressure is brought the bear.
As Test matches go, this was as good as it gets.
This was England’s best performance of the Autumn with the England pack particularly impressing. Without the influential Munu Tuilagi, England lacked any dynamism going forward. Questions will continue to be raised over Chris Ashton and Ben Foden on the wings as Christian Wade and Marland Yarde wait in the wings. All in all, England will be happy with their autumn campaign with two wins out of three and running the World Champions very hard on Saturday.Tweet