Sam Underhill try disallowed in closing stages
Last Updated: 10/11/18 5:30pm
New Zealand fought back from 15-0 down to record a narrow 16-15 win against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
In the pouring rain, England produced an excellent performance to put the back-to-back world champions under immense pressure, but ultimately fell short.
England have waited four years for a shot at the All Blacks and stormed out of the blocks for an early 15-0 lead – Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley touching down while Owen Farrell contributed a conversion and a drop goal.
But the All Blacks hit back in the final two minutes of the first half with a try from Damian McKenzie plus a conversion and a penalty from Beauden Barrett.
A Barrett drop-goal plus another penalty in the second half gave New Zealand the lead and despite immense pressure from England in the final minutes – including a disallowed Sam Underhill try in the 75th – the All Blacks held on to deny England.
Despite the loss, it was a much better performance from England compared to their one-point win against South Africa the previous week and they will rue turning down several shots at goal in favour of going for the lineout.
On a weekend that marked the centenary of the end of World War I, a hushed silence fell over Twickenham as the crowd paid their respects – but they were back in full voice to drown out the haka with a rendition of swing low.
It was the perfect start for England, who scored in the first two minutes after the All Blacks fluffed their lines at the kick-off. Brodie Retallick could not hold onto Farrell’s kick and from the scrum, England went wide with Ben Youngs throwing a superb pass to Chris Ashton who raced over in the corner. Farrell’s conversion hit the post but it was a confidence-boosting start for England.
A shaky lineout from the visitors saw England straight back on the attack and some strong carries from the forwards allowed Farrell to drop back into the pocket to slot a drop-goal to make it 8-0 after 10 minutes.
New Zealand had their chances but were made to work hard in defence and attack, with England closing down their space and applying huge pressure on Aaron Smith and Barrett. England forwards continued to impress with Underhill and Kyle Sinckler not taking a backward step.
England’s second try came in the 23rd minute off a driving lineout that included the whole team. A penalty was sent into the corner and Itoje took the ball and the England pack rumbled forward. The likes of Ashton, Te’o and Slade joined in with Hartley coming up with the ball. Farrell converted and England were building a very healthy lead at 15-0 up.
New Zealand finally got onto the scoreboard in the last minute of the first half when the All Blacks pressure finally told. The All Blacks turned down a penalty shot at goal and opted for a scrum. Ryan Crotty’s break took them close to the line before a lovely inside pass from Barrett to McKenzie saw him scream over on a lovely angle. Barrett converted to make it 15-7.
Farrell then put the restart straight out and from the scrum, New Zealand were back on the attack. England were caught offside and the All Blacks were back within touching distance with Barrett’s penalty making it 15-10 at the break.
New Zealand should have had their second try early in the second half after a McKenzie half-break saw Smith break free. However, his pass to Ardie Savea was poor and the flanker could not take it cleanly with the try line begging.
Barrett matched Farrell in the kicking battle as he made it 15-13 with a drop-goal of his own in the 46th minute.
England had the chance to extend their lead almost straight away but twice they turned down a shot at goal and went for the corner, only to be denied by the All Blacks defence.
Heading into the final quarter, New Zealand continued to press and took the lead after Barrett slotted his second penalty when England were penalised for offsides.
The game see-sawed with both sides looking for that winning score – England’s cause not helped as their lineout began to malfunction.
It looked like England had retaken the lead in the 75th minute through the excellent Underhill after Courtney Lawes charged down a TJ Perenara clearance, but it was controversially ruled out as the TMO adjudged Lawes to have been offside.
England threw everything at New Zealand in the final moments but when Slade knocked on, the All Blacks regrouped to see the game out.