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'They panicked': Why England should've risked it for the win vs ABs

By Finn Morton
England's fly-half Marcus Smith claps the fans after the Autumn Nations Series International rugby union match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham stadium, in London, on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Ian Kington / AFP) (Photo by IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Blues captain James Parsons believes England “panicked” against the All Blacks last weekend, as they decided to settle for an anticlimactic 25-all draw.

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After an up and down international season, which has included first ever losses in New Zealand against Ireland and Argentina, the All Blacks were looking to make a statement at Twickenham.

With plenty to prove less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand had the chance to extend their unbeaten run to seven Test matches – and their next opponents were one of their fiercest rivals.

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The All Blacks raced out to an early 14-nil lead after tries to Dalton Papali’i and Codie Taylor, and they never really seemed to be at risk of squandering their advantage.

A sublime Rieko Ioane try after the half-time break appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for England, who were trailing 22-6 soon after.

But All Blacks star Beauden Barrett played the role of both the hero and villain in the dying stages, as he was yellow carded just a few minutes after a successful drop goal.

England capitalised on the one player advantage, and scored three tries inside the final nine minutes to draw the scores level at 25-all.

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While they were playing with all the momentum, and with the energy and passion of the Twickenham crowd ready to spur them on to something incredible, England decided to end the Test there.

After the kick-off, Flyhalf Marcus Smith kicked the ball into touch and brought an end to what was a thrilling end to the blockbuster clash.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former Blues captain Parsons said that England were in control and could’ve gone on to win the Test before settling for a tie.

“They’ve done it with ease like that last eight minutes, in terms of counterattacking,” Parsons said.

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“One of the biggest players that probably came off was Dalton Papali’i, who was slowing their ball down all night and once he came off, they were just getting that front foot ball.

“Their actual ability to have front foot ball from that kick-off is right there, it was a short kick-off, they were 60 out.

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“I don’t quite buy that, I think they panicked, and they just thought ‘geez we’ve done really well to get it to a draw, let’s just take it and get out of here.’”

Flyhalf Marcus Smith played a crucial role in England’s comeback late in the Test, and appeared hellbent on leading his team towards a famous victory.

The star pivot quickly knocked over the final conversion before running back to halfway, seemingly focused on the history that awaited both himself and his teammates.

But instead, it seems the team made the decision to end the Test there, as he given the duty of kicking the ball into touch – despite appearing a least a little bit hesitant to do so.

“If you watch Marcus Smith when he kicks that conversion, he does not waste any time. He kicks it, he turns around and he sprints back to halfway,” he said.

“You could see when he kicked it out, I felt like it might’ve been a directive because he was not happy, and you could see forwards saying ‘get it, get it out, get it out.’

“I don’t think everyone in that team was in all agreeance but sometimes you have to disagree and commit as teammates and that’s what Marcus Smith did.

“All his body language said he wanted to have a W next to their name.”

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