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All Blacks survive arm-wrestle with England for one-point win

By Ned Lester
Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

England travelled to Dunedin full of confidence and ambition, eyeing a rare win on New Zealand soil. Meanwhile, the All Blacks were looking to make a statement in their first game under new leadership.

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A nerve-wracking opening 40 minutes produced a 10-all scoreline, and by the full-time siren, just one point separated the two, with New Zealand escaping with the narrow win.

All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan said the team were expecting a rapid contest and that’s exactly what the opening exchanges delivered.

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High kicks and wide play featured early before the first scrum packed down in the fourth minute. An early engage from the home side gifted England a shot at the posts, but Marcus Smith couldn’t find his target from 40 metres out.

England were dominant at the breakdown early, winning three turnovers in the opening eight minutes and forcing mistakes with their rapid defensive line speed.

The All Blacks struggled to get out of their half in the opening 10 minutes, until an inaccurate lineout throw from Jamie George handed the World Cup runners up another scrum, where Ethan de Groot went to work and won his side a penalty.

A giant Jordie Barrett kick got the All Blacks seven metres away from the English line, but a knock-on ended the play three phases in.

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The All Blacks found their rhythm soon after that first taste of the English 22, stringing together multiple phases for the first time in the game and throwing varied attack at the visitors.

A Damian McKenzie cross-field kick found the waiting arms of Sevu Reece, who collected the ball and scored in the corner to celebrate his superb comeback from an ACL injury.

Defence

108
Tackles Made
197
24
Tackles Missed
33
82%
Tackle Completion %
86%

England were creative on the counter-attack with Smith directing play, finding half-gaps which got them on the front foot. Once in New Zealand’s half, the ambition continued and Smith got the ball behind the defence with grubbers, each of which proved difficult for McKenzie to control.

The Kiwi No. 10 was forced to take the ball out just five metres from his tryline when Smith again put the ball through, and Maro Itoje got himself on the scoreboard with a tough short carry swiftly after the lineout. Smith added the extras.

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Three minutes later Stephen Perofeta made a break and Ardie Savea benefitted with a run-in in the corner. McKenzie again missed from the right touchline, keeping the lead to three.

England’s linespeed wasn’t having the same impact as the half wore on but their work at the breakdown remained strong, winning them possession and forcing New Zealand errors.

The high balls kept coming and while New Zealand’s backfield were up to the challenge, the pressure being applied was undeniable.

Two minutes after the halftime whistle was blown, Ollie Lawrence won England another breakdown penalty and Smith stepped up to the tee and tied the game at 10 apiece to end the half.

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An English knock-on handed the All Blacks a scrum 90 seconds into the second period, but an uneven push was pulled up by the referee and the visitors would have had a three-point lead but Smith missed a relatively regulation kick.

Breakdown turnovers went both ways but it was England who looked the more convincing with possession to open the second half. Once a few phases had been counted, the visitors were able to expose gaps in the defence and get quick ball on the recycle.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was rewarded for his tireless work out wide with a try in the corner, finishing a physical and dynamic attacking passage. The wide conversion attempt from Smith was off.

A rare English breakdown indiscretion offered Damian McKenzie a crack at three points, and the lead was then reduced to two.

Another breakdown penalty relieved pressure on the All Blacks but England were back in favourable attacking position soon after thanks to a lineout steel.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
1.6
6
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2
6
Entries

The New Zealand reserves started to make their impact as the game entered its final quarter, and some quality game management from Beauden Barrett got the hosts into England’s half.

From there, another breakdown penalty offered McKenzie a shot at the lead and the score became 16-15 in favour of the hosts.

The reserve front rows finally met in a scrum in the 70th minute and it was a one-sided affair as Fletcher Newell and Ofa Tu’ungafasi charged forwards. Asafao Aumua botched a lineout throw and relieved that pressure.

It wasn’t the most clinical game in history but both teams were throwing everything into it. George Furbank may be having nightmares of Sevu Reece after the winger timed his chasing runs perfectly to nail the fullback under the highball.

Dramatic final moments ensued as Damian McKenzie was called for taking too long to kick a penalty and England had one last shot at a win.

A breakdown penalty 50 seconds after the whistle cemented the win. Final score: 16-15.

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Comments

85 Comments
B
Barry 8 days ago

CAN YOU DEAL WITH THE HEAT?

B
Barry 8 days ago

NOW FOR THE ROAR OF A SOLD OUT STADIUM! IT’S NOW HOW YOU DEAL WITH THE PRESSURE OF HISTORY! THE BEST TEAM WILL WIN BETTER THAN IN DUNEDIN! RAZOR’S CALL!!

B
Barry 8 days ago

WELCOME TO GARDEN OF EDEN ENGLAND! WHEN YOU HEAR THE CROWD THE PRESSURE GROWS ! AFTER THAT IT’S HOW YOU DEAL WITH THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY AND THE WILY RAZOR ROBERTSON’S PLANS FOR YOUR BOYS HERE! THE BEST TEAM WILL WIN. NOTHING CUTS SHARPER THAN A RAZOR THROUGH BUTTER!

A
Alfred 12 days ago

That was foolish the 78th minute penalty attempt by Damian McKenzie, the Ref got it right at the 78:20 sec mark, as McKenzie takes forever to kick the ball. BUT, I was disappointed they went for the penalty with slightly over two minutes to go. If it were SA, they would have kicked the ball out near the 10m line, and gone for the lineout. By the time the two sides set for the Lineout would have left 90 seconds of play left, and a short throw in win on your own throw to muscle out the England near their goal line for 90 seconds, was better than defending in your own half. If McKenzie had missed the penalty shot anyway, England would have held possession to run it at the ABs, and drive themselves into the ABs half in hope to get a penalty. Because if England were to win a penalty in their own 10m goal line, its better than England winning a penalty in the ABs half in the last few seconds.

A
Alfred 12 days ago

B.J. Spratt, the only reason why the BOKS won the World Cup final 12-11, was because due to the inconsistency of the TMO decision awarding a Red Card to Sam Cane, and a Yellow Card to Siya Kolisi, both went into the tackle, both head collisions, but Kolisi got away with only a 10min Yellow Card - double standards. Had Cane returned onto the filed as Kolisi did, the ABs would have probably won the 4th title. That was the second Final the ABs were robbed; where in 1995, 22 AB players were sick of food poisoning as South African’s spiked their food two-days prior to the final, and despite that Jonah Lomu in the 2nd-half scored the only try, conveniently, it was claimed by an off-field official as he received a “forward pass”, despite the replay never showed it was forward.

J
Jon 12 days ago

It wasn’t the most clinical game in history but both teams were throwing everything into it. George Furbank may be having nightmares of Sevu Reece after the winger timed his chasing runs perfectly to nail the fullback under the highball.
Pretty much sums it up, was just a slight improvement on 2020 Foster (big change from 2023 Foster/Schmidt) so still leaving a lot to be desired.

B
B.J. Spratt 12 days ago

Roll on Eden Park!

B
B.J. Spratt 12 days ago

Jesus ! What the F was that? A.B’s have as much chance of beating the Bok as I ha ve of getting a B.J. from the POPE!

H
Haami 12 days ago

A proper test match that one!, the English resurgence is the real deal. Both sides will be better off for the intense hit out, and the coaching staff and team analysts will be burning the midnight oil all week, another close one at fortress Eden park?, we shall see.

M
MattJH 13 days ago

Loved it.
FurBallsOfSteele was great at fullback, massive from CCS, very impressed by that young English prop off the bench getting his first cap.
Sux for TJ doing his knee again, but enjoyed watching Sevu Reece and Telea and their work rate.
Perofeta had some fantastic moments so real stoked for him, especially as his selection was so criticised. (Well, it was by me. I wouldn’t have picked him to begin with.)

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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