England 15-16 New Zealand
Wow what a start to this match, England played their best starting 20minutes that I think I have ever seen. They steamrollered the mighty All Blacks into nothingness.
Sheer determination from the kick-off saw England set out their stall. The Twickenham fans singing Swing Low while the Haka was laid down, gave the air of expectation.
Chris Ashton scoring a try in the corner after two minutes was the start few would have expected. Using the wet surface to slide across the whitewash to open the scoring. Farrell’s attempted conversion just not scraping in, coming back off the sticks. The drop-goal for 8-0, was a great tonic for Farrell, who was dictating play at 10.
An Elliot Daly penalty hammered into touch by the corner gave the lineout to England. Dylan Hartley delivering a great throw in, before the driving maul saw him at the back, bound on with ball in hand. An influx of backs arrived to add extra weight and drive, seeing the juggernaut roll over the line for Hartley to score the try. The conversion was good, 15-0 and the shell-shocked All Blacks were being schooled here it seemed.
Heading towards halftime, the game had levelled out a little more. England winger Jonny May penalised for offside as he intercepted a pass, saw New Zealand refuse the easier 3 point kick option, instead going to a 12 metre scrum. A good scrum saw quick hands slip an inside pass for Damian McKenzie to score for the visitors. Beauden Barrett adding the conversion and swiftly followed up with a penalty to make the halftime score 15-10.
Straight out of the blocks, the All Blacks put pressure on from the restart. Flanker Ardie Savea looking to be on his way for a try, just managed to fumble the ball, a wake up call for England there.
Dylan Hartley was replaced during the interval, and the early costly errors by New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick were soon forgotten as he upped his game especially in the line out for the second half. England who had been rock solid in the line out in the first half were now looking very average indeed. Stats at one point in this half was from 10 lineouts, won 5 lost 5 on their own throw !!!!
McKenzie putting his clearing kick straight into touch giving England an attacking line-out on the All Blacks 22, which was an ideal platform to look to extend their lead. Sadly replacement hooker Jamie George wasted it with a dummy throw and conceded possession.
Barrett showed he is a beast on the pitch. His first ever drop goal in an international sailed over the bar. His second penalty of the game nudged the New Zealanders into a single point lead.
Was He Or Wasn’t He?
Courtney Lawes charge-down with just 5 minutes on the clock was called back to the TMO, to check if he was onside or not. Jerome Garces the referee and television match official Marius Jonker, kept the 82,149 crowd holding their breath before declaring he was offside. What a difference an inch makes. The sight though of flanker Sam Underhill turning Beauden Barrett inside out was beautiful to watch.
There are not many teams who can dominate the All Blacks as England did in the first 20 minutes. However this sport is 80 minutes and the pressure applied, in the pouring rain wasn’t going to last a further hour. Errors from both sides in this enthralling game and the TMO call with 5 minutes to go, made for an all round entertaining game of rugby.
This wasn’t a first choice England XV, it could be said ( but not in defence of the outcome). Several key players were not available; No.8 Billy Vunipola who is out for three months after breaking his arm, Nathan Hughes faces a disciplinary hearing for punching & Sam Simmonds also out with an injury. Front row Mako Vunipola injured and Marler retired, backline missing Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph through injury. So one positive to take away from this result England are looking strong, looking good and the game against Australia could be interesting, to say the least.
Wales beating Australia for the first time since 2008, 9-6 is a feather in the cap for Wales. This result should be another motivator for England to prepare and give the Wallabies a hiding.