All Blacks taken down a peg or two
England 38 New Zealand 21:England produced one of their finest performances ever to stun New Zealand and end the world champions' 20-game unbeaten run in the most spectacular style during a remarkable afternoon at Twickenham. New Zealand, who had won their last nine games against England and not dropped a European tour game for 10 years, were 12-1 on favourites at the start.
But they were outplayed in every department by a callow England team beaten by Australia and South Africa in the last two weeks, who chalked up their highest score and record margin against a team being touted as the best ever to have played the game.
Owen Farrell kicked England into a 15-0 lead before the All Blacks hit back with two tries in three second-half minutes from Julian Savea and Kieran Read. Twickenham sensed the worst. The All Blacks had found their cutting edge and a third consecutive defeat to southern hemisphere opposition seemed in the offing.
But England responded with a stunning three-try blitz from Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi and the records tumbled.
The All Blacks had not lost in 20 matches. They had not lost an autumn Test for a decade, since England beat them 31-18 in November 2002. That England team went on to win the Rugby World Cup a year later. Stuart Lancaster’s current England team are at the opposite end of their development.
The absence of Toby Flood through injury left them without a single 50-cap player. England had fewer caps in their entire starting line-up than New Zealand had in their front row. The team’s character had never been denied but their maturity and ability to turn positive performances into results had been questioned after narrow defeats to Australia and South Africa.
No longer. England rocked the All Blacks. New Zealand were hit by a vomiting bug in the week. But not as hard as they were hit by England. The first signs of England’s physical dominance came in the lineout and with their early ball-carrying, with Joe Launchbury, Tom Youngs and Tuilagi all making early ground.
But it was without the ball that England really set the tone. Their kick-chase had the All Blacks under pressure and they swamped New Zealand in defence.
England had a slice of fortune when Cory Jane was judged to have strayed marginally offside before collecting Dan Carter’s inch-perfect cross-kick. Carter, almost inexplicably, also missed two penalty shots at goal. England felt they had not had that bounce of the ball against Australia and South Africa. Today they made the most of it.
After 21 minutes, England won a scrum penalty and Farrell kicked a fantastic touch, to move play into the All Blacks 22 for the first time and Geoff Parling won a confident lineout. England drove powerfully but fell foul of the new five-second law after referee George Clancy, under the mistaken impression the maul had halted, called on scrum-half Ben Youngs to use it.
New Zealand were awarded the scrum but England kept the pressure on. Tom Wood charged down Savea’s clearance to keep England in the All Blacks 22 and more pressure earned another lineout. Ben Morgan peeled off the driving maul, Chris Robshaw crashed the ball up the middle and England moved it wide through Morgan and Alex Goode to Ashton.