New Zealand v England: where the series was won
June 18, 2014
The All Blacks have taken the wins but England have been more impressive © Getty Images
The All Blacks and England have treated us to a thoroughly entertaining but somewhat bizarre Test series so far. New Zealand, whose vulnerability early in the season has been well documented, were second best for long parts of the first Test against a scratch side without its' regulars from the Aviva Premiership's two top sides. Two near-full strength teams then clashed in Dunedin a week later, and again \the visitors were the more impressive for around 50 minutes. But Stuart Lancaster's side had no answer for a 20-minute purple patch from the world champions that ultimately blew the tourists away.
It leads us into an interesting third and final match. The Test series is beyond England's reach, and they'll face a long flight home should they succumb to another defeat; should they win, however, they'll leave buoyant knowing they got the better of the All Blacks on home soil for long periods of this tour and with a result to show for their endeavours. With home advantage on their side in the 2015 edition of the Rugby World Cup they'll have the confidence that they have a realistic chance of returning to the summit of world rugby once again.
This week, we break down the two Tests further than ever before. Rather than team averages or a game-by-game review, we slice and dice each match into 10-minute periods to show the topsy-turvy nature of the series.
First Test Breakdown
0-10 minutes England get off to a strong start and provide the All Blacks problems with ball in hand, but cough up cheap ball which presents the home side with easy possession.
England starve the hosts of the ball and nudge themselves 6-3 ahead. They show more attacking intent and muster their second clean break of the game but again turn the ball over.
The match takes a breather after a ferocious opening, but there is still time for the sides to exchange penalties. England's discipline looks suspect but their set-piece solid.
31-40 minutes New Zealand are lucky to get into the sheds level after a late onslaught from a dangerous England backline. The tourists again dictate possession and are aggressive with the ball, but fail to come away with points in a period when they punched holes into NZ's defence.
41-50 minutes New Zealand are rejuvenated and carve England apart with dynamic handling, but England's scrambling defence and set-piece relieves the pressure.
New Zealand's defence gets a workout with England dictating possession © Getty Images
51-60 minutes Having weathered an All Blacks' storm, the tourists shift the ball through the backs and break the line on numerous occasions. Crucially, they fail to score points.
61-70 minutes New Zealand address their problems and get an equal share of possession. Again the tourists look dangerous, but they gift possession to the All Blacks twice as well as being penalised twice.
71-80 minutes England are made to rue the handling errors that allow the hosts to camp on their try-line and cross for the match winning try.
First Test summary England produced more cutting-edge rugby on the whole, but both sides were frustrated by their inability to post points when in the ascendancy. A few infringements didn't help England,, and they were left counting the costs of the number of turnovers they conceded that denied them any territory despite a brave defensive effort. New Zealand's resilience, in particular in the period leading up to the hour-mark was fantastic. With England rampant in attack, they didn't concede a single penalty and mustered two turnovers in defence - ultimately snatching a hold of the Test.
0-10 minutes Both sides appear wobbly in defence but England's first string show the clinical nature that deserted them in Auckland. They evade two tackles but this time turn them into two clean breaks and a try for Marland Yarde. New Zealand's discipline is found wanting and they are punished.
11-20 minutes England are more fruitful with ball in hand but produce their third, fourth and fifth turnovers of the match.
21-30 minutes New Zealand show signs of waking up but their error rate costs them any chance of landing points.
31-40 minutes A frantic end to the half sees just three points added to the board despite long-range breaks from both sides. New Zealand are asked to make just six tackles (missing three) compared with 42 for England (missing five), but both sides turn the ball over.
England fell away throughout the second half © Getty Images
41-50 minutes New Zealand spread their wings and average a clean break every other minute. England's two turnovers do little to help matters.
51-60 minutes New Zealand starve England of ball and continue to make inroads into the attacking half. A tiring England defence limits the arrears to three points but again individual errors creep in.
61-70 minutes The game is put beyond doubt with a third try, with the pace and power of the world champions too much for Lancaster's pretenders who complete just six of 11 attempted tackles.
71-80 minutes England restore some pride and add respect to the scoreline as they chance their arm and once again display the abilities of their backs.
Second Test Summary
New Zealand 28-27 England (Australia only)%]
It's hard to determine who really got the better of that first half, but the second period was a procession. England showed their quality in patches but did not assert themselves as they had done the week before. Maybe the personnel changes took their toll on their fluidity and maybe a lack of fitness also showed.
Test Series Summary
England will undoubtedly rue their luck in this series but they ought to rue more the number of turnovers they have conceded. One thing we were reminded about - as if we ever needed reminding - is that a team needs to match New Zealand at the fundamentals of the game, and not gift ball away, if they are to get one over the All Blacks. The story of the series might have been different had England respected possession a little more, but it is all a case of should have, could have, would have.
The final Test is full of intrigue, but England really must step up. Stuart Lancaster has spoken of decision making having cost his side, but realistically their skills have failed to stand scrutiny under the most sever pressure; if England take the same set of handling skills to Hamilton then we must expect the same result as the previous two.
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