New Zealand 28 England 27: All Blacks edge 2nd Test to win series
New Zealand 28 England 27: Stuart Lancaster's men go down fighting in the second Test on Saturday
New Zealand produced a three-try second-half comeback to break England and win the Steinlager Series with a 28-27 win in Dunedin.
In a frenetic match, England stormed into a 10-0 lead inside eight minutes through the boot of Owen Farrell and a Marland Yarde try, but the world champions hit back thanks to two penalties from Aaron Cruden.
Any hope of taking the series to the final match of the series in Hamilton next week were blown away as the All Blacks backs turned on the style as Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu all ran in tries.
A Beauden Barrett penalty in a superb 21-minute spell allowed to build up a 28-13 lead.
England full-back Mike Brown was gifted a try by the officials in the final 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done and Chris Ashton finished off a well-worked consolation try at the death, with Farrell adding the conversion to give a false impression on the scoreboard of a close match.
England had the upper hand at the start with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw out of sorts with several early penalties conceded and a warning from referee Jaco Peyper.
Farrell had England in front after two minutes before McCaw was again at fault six minutes later as he gave London Irish winger Yarde too much space to shrug through a tackle for the opening try with Farrell adding the extras.
The All Blacks—deemed to be at 70 per cent in their 20-15 win last week—were full of creative attack, but struggled to find their clinical finishing while England looked dangerous through the running of Yarde and centre Billy Twelvetrees.
Cruden reduced the deficit with a penalty when England were caught offside inside their 22 but was inaccurate with a second effort from 45 metres despite playing under the roof of the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
It was then Farrell’s turn to miss at goal after the Saracens outside-half was taken off the ball by Nonu.
Playing out of position on the right wing, Leicester Tigers centre Tuilagi had a great chance to give England an impressive lead in the last minute before the break as he motored off on a 60-metre breakaway from his 22.
But he was caught and hauled down by man of the match Ben Smith in the New Zealand 22, who also stole the ball despite the best efforts of Brown in support.
When Danny Care knocked on and England were penalised at the scrum with the last play of the first half, Cruden stepped up to slot a second penalty to reduce England’s lead at the break to four points.
If Twelvetrees was impressive in attack in the first half, he was ultimately responsible for allowing the All Blacks to get back into the game as his pass inside the New Zealand 22 failed to find Tom Wood and the world champions pounced.
Cruden hit the gas, dummied England number 8 Ben Morgan before feeding winger Julian Savea, who blew apart the England defence down the left flank and unselfishly drew a man before sending through Ben Smith on the inside to run in beside the posts, setting up an easy conversion for Cruden.
Another Farrell penalty levelled the score at 13-13 and New Zealand should have added a second try but Aaron Smith went for glory rather than sending through Liam Messam and was taken down by Farrell.
But the chance wasn’t entirely lost as the All Blacks patiently worked an overlap on the left flank and powerful winger Savea had an easy walk over for his 20th try in 21 senior internationals. Cruden shanked his conversion effort wide in what was his final contribution of the match.
Steve Hansen’s side had the momentum and continued to pile forward, their power, pace and angles troubling England’s defence and the problems worsened when Farrell was sin-binned on 59 minutes for not rolling away just metres from his tryline.
Replacement outside-half Beauden Barrett kicked the penalty before Nonu crossed in the right corner six minutes later after more sublime running from Conrad Smith to break the gainline and find Nonu in space on the wing and some quick-stepping later and he was over for New Zealands’s third try.
Brown that offered hope of a comeback with what seemed like a consolation try with eight minutes remaining before Tuilagi finally got into the game when returned to centre as Ashton came on for Twelvetrees.
The Leicester man produced a sublime offload out to Brown for the build-up to England’s third try with the full-back cutting in and playing in Ashton, who went over with a trademark swan dive. Farrell converted both tries, but it was too little too late for Stuart Lancaster’s side.