Kiwis withstand England fightback
Huw Richards at Twickenham
November 6, 2010
Chris Ashton could not prevent Hosea Gear from scoring New Zealand's opening try at Twickenham
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Two first-half tries gave New Zealand the cushion they needed to begin their European tour with their ninth consecutive victory over England, Graham Henry's men getting across the line 26-16.
The five-pointers were fair reward for a brilliant start in which they looked likely to score whenever they had possession. England, though, pushed them hard once they had a decent share of possession in the second-half, forcing the All Blacks into at times desperate defence that was penetrated only once, by England's New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley.
Any thought that England's barrage of pre-match positive talk had been disinformation or delusion was dispelled in the opening moments as they ran back at New Zealand from the kick-off, going rapidly through several phases before a pass from scrum-half Ben Youngs missed its target just inside the All Black half. Not many would have bet that the first boot to be put to ball would have been a New Zealand one, but so it proved.
But England's initial liveliness was put into perspective once New Zealand in turn took ball in hand and ran at them. Within two minutes centre Ma'a Nonu was sliding past Mike Tindall, setting the tone for an unhappy first-half for England's midfield veteran, to initiate an assault that saw Mils Muliaina coming in from fullback to slice down the left, a foot on the touchline saving England from early worry.
All of New Zealand's early pressure - and there was plenty of it - came down the left flank as they punched through defence made uncertain by the sheer pace and dexterity of the attacking to give wing Hosea Gear several early runs. The first was only foiled when Mark Cueto tracked across from the opposite wing for a try-saving tackle.
Outside-half Dan Carter missed a ninth minute penalty and, as England for the first time spent an extended period in All Black territory, there was a sense that the early storm might have been seen off. Maybe so, but the second surge proved to be lethal as the All Blacks scored twice in the space of four minutes.
The first, from Gear, was awarded only after a long consultation with television match official Guilio de Santis concluded that he had, by the narrowest of margins, touched down before England wing Chris Ashton's tackle drove him into touch. The move had been initiated by debutant centre Sonny Bill Williams' signature move, driving into cover and flicking the ball out of contact to supporting flanker Jerome Kaino, whose pass found Gear in space on the left.
Carter converted and was on the mark again four minutes later as rookie scrum-half Alby Mathewson ran laterally from a scrum five on the left, Gear was held up close to the line and Kieran Read drove over unstoppably from the breakdown.
Fourteen points down, England responded positively, with outside-half Toby Flood landing a 24th minute penalty to cut the deficit. They then chose to go for the corner after Mathewson was penalised for a rugby league-style scrum put-in, but were unable to capitalise on lock Courtney Lawes' clean take from the line-out. Instead Carter restored the 14 point margin after skipper Lewis Moody was penalised for entering a ruck from the side.
Flood missed a 40 metre penalty and England ended the half positively, but still well in arrears as sufficient All Black bodies inserted themselves between Ben Foden, the ball and the ground as the England fullback was driven over by a white-shirted phalanx.
Flood and Carter exchanged penalties to maintain the status quo early in the second half and Martin Johnson began the usual wave of substitutions by sending on Dylan Hartley at hooker for Steve Thompson. And it was Hartley who broke through for England in the 54th minute, stretching an arm for his first Test try, confirmed only after reference to television replays.
Scored by a native Rotoruan, it was a try made in Wigan by the enterprising Ashton who launched an England counter-attack from deep in his own territory and, with slightly better soccer skills, might have scored himself as he led the chase for a kick through. Flood converted to bring England within a single score.
Carter extended the gap to 10 points within three minutes, but Flood was on the mark after a brawl that earned warnings for Hartley and All Black lock Brad Thorn, and England - with Gloucester lock Dave Attwood and Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie on for their debuts as replacements - went into the final 14 minutes once more within a score.
Carter once more restored the status quo, before England staged a roaring finish that had the crowd on its feet and the All Blacks tackling desperately. Kaino was yellow-carded with eight minutes left and England came close to claiming a second try from one of their own Kiwis, but De Santis correctly ruled that Nonu's flying challenge had forced Shontayne Hape into a knock-on as he touched down with seven minutes left.
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