England 16-26 New Zealand
England (6) 16 Tries: Hartley Cons: Flood Pens: Flood 3 New Zealand (17) 26 Tries: Gear, Read Cons: Carter 2 Pens: Carter 4
Highlights – England 16-26 New Zealand
England’s latest revival showed signs of life at Twickenham but they still slipped to their ninth defeat in a row against the All Black juggernaut.
Converted tries from Hosea Gear and Kieran Read put New Zealand 14-0 up.
Two penalties apiece from Toby Flood of England and the visitors’ Dan Carter made it 20-6 soon after half-time.
The home side got in touch through a converted Dylan Hartley try but despite a third Flood penalty, two Carter kicks kept the All Blacks at arm’s length.
After beating Australia in the second Test of their summer tour England went into the game believing they were ready to mix it with the best.
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However, although they dominated the scrums, England manager Martin Johnson’s side were disappointing in the line-outs and outgunned in terms of pace, power and rugby intelligence for long periods before a late flurry left New Zealand defending desperately at the death.
There is no disgrace in losing to the All Blacks when they play the sort of all-singing, all-dancing rugby they produced at times at Twickenham, and England will take real heart from the way they fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to give the visitors a genuine test.
The hosts, who made only one change to their starting XV as prop Andrew Sheridan returned after long-term injury, started with width and pace in their attack as both forwards and backs carried hard at the All Blacks defensive line.
But New Zealand defended with intent and three rapid attacks down England’s right showed their threat before they took the lead with a controversial try initiated by Sonny Bill Williams.
The 6ft 4in, 17st centre was making his New Zealand debut but the former rugby league star looked right at home as he blasted through the England midfield and off-loaded to Jerome Kaino.
The blind-side flanker fired a long pass to Gear and the winger rode the tackle of Chris Ashton to score in the corner.
It took the television match official a couple of minutes to decide Gear had touched down before his foot went into touch but a touchline conversion from Carter, who had missed an early penalty, gave the visitors a 7-0 lead after 17 minutes.
They doubled their advantage only three minutes later. Gear was held up on the switch from a five-metre scrum but Read was on hand to pick up and power over from close range, with Carter again converting.
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Flood got England on the scoreboard with a penalty but a threatening attack came to nothing because of a combination of ferocious All Blacks defence and an inability to spot men outside, and a Carter penalty restored the margin just after the half hour mark.
The one area the hosts were having some joy was in the scrums but Flood missed a very kickable penalty after Sheridan and Co had earned him a shot at goal.
To England’s credit they hammered away at the visitors again in the dying seconds of the half but Ben Foden was held up over the line as New Zealand led 17-3 at the break.
England’s increasingly impressive scrum set up Flood to trim the gap soon after the restart but Carter rapidly responded in kind.
All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu was lucky a cynical head-butt on Moody was missed by the officials – replacement England hooker Hartley was later to drive a forearm into the face of the prone Richie McCaw – before England stunned the All Blacks with a breakout try that had a large slice of luck.
Ashton’s quick tap after claiming a mark set them on their way and after Flood kicked ahead the off-side Ashton reclaimed possession before Hartley burrowed over – although there were suggestions of a double movement.
A measure of how impressive New Zealand have been over the past couple of years is that it was the first try they have conceded in their past three tours to Europe.
Flood converted to trim the gap to only seven points but Carter almost immediately landed a penalty to take the score back out to 23-13 with 20 minutes to go.
A third Flood penalty set up a tense last 15 minutes and although Carter once more restored the 10-point lead England were not done.
New Zealand lost Jerome Kaino to the sin bin and England came desperately close to scoring a second try, but Isaia Toeava’s last-gasp tackle just managed to dislodge the ball from centre Shontayne Hape’s grasp as he dived over in the corner.
The hosts launched a further series of last-gasp attacks, with Foden prominent, but the All Blacks held out to leave England still looking for their first win over New Zealand since 2003.
England: Foden; Ashton, Tindall, Hape, Cueto; Flood, Youngs; Sheridan, Thompson, Cole, Lawes, Palmer, Croft, Moody, Easter.
Replacements: Armitage for Cueto (68), Care for Youngs (72), Wilson for Sheridan (58), Hartley for Thompson (51), Attwood for Palmer (64), Fourie for Moody (66).
Not Used: Hodgson.
New Zealand: Muliaina; Rokocoko, Williams, Nonu, Gear; Carter, Mathewson; Woodcock, Mealamu, O. Franks, Thorn, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw, Read.
Replacements: Toeava for Rokocoko (58), Ellis for Mathewson (51), Afoa for O. Franks (75), Boric for Whitelock (68).
Not Used: Elliot, Messam, Donald.
Ref: Romain Poite (France).