In what was a truly epic International test match, fans experienced huge defence, swings in momentum and the intensity of a match worthy a Rugby World Cup final. Yet after 80 minutes, it was a disallowed try to Sam Underhill that sealed the result at Twickenham Stadium; 15-16.
Courtney Lawes was caught offside charging down a kick (see above image), meaning the Sam Underhill try was disallowed which handed the single point advantage back to New Zealand. The teams played out the last four minutes of pressure-filled rugby until the time elapsed.
A hollow feeling for fans, where a vocal din of disapproval rang around the cauldron, that is Twickenham Stadium. Yes, the All Blacks had secured the win, although they would be upset themselves that several try-scoring opportunities went begging. Their win came from a try, and several crucial kicks from Beauden Barrett, that all counted in a thrilling match-up.
#ENGvNZL | It's full time at Twickenham and England have been beaten by New Zealand 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 10, 2018
With the pre-match ceremony to honour the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Armistice day, and under a grey, wet sky, the game was a terrific example of pressure. That was in attack; breaking the All Blacks line twice, and the reverse, where the All Blacks terrorized the England midfield.
Although in saying that, the completion rate for New Zealand was poor by their high standards, so many breaks not resulting in tries – the score could have easily swelled to over 20 points, if those opportunities were completed. Some might say, on a dry track, England would have been eclipsed in a more familiar pattern.
Still 80 minutes of superb rugby union, that might be remembered for the final disallowed try but, should be celebrated for the occasion. The first match between the two sides in four years – the rugby-feast was well worth the wait.
England 15 – Tries: Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley; Conversion: Owen Farrell; Penalty: Farrell
New Zealand 16 – Try: Damian McKenzie; Con: Beauden Barrett; Penalties: Barrett (2); Drop Kick: Barrett
The statistics read that the first half was owned by the England attack. With an early try, they retained much of the ball – whereas New Zealand chose to kick theirs away to start with. It seemed to rattle the visitors, as the rain became steady and altered the game plan.
When a set piece lineout was directed toward the All Blacks line, the addition of several backs was too much pressure for New Zealand to defend. Dylan Hartley standing up with the ball, and his team had extended a lead over their challenger.
The crowd was in full song – and that continued throughout the game. Loud enough to drown out the All Blacks haka, and building to a crescendo at 79 minutes, willing their team on in the amphitheater that is, Twickenham Stadium.
Disallowed try seals All Blacks win at Twickenham Stadium
If the offside line was contentious, it was due to the rush-defence of England. Pushing the line for much of the game, line speed and the ability to meet the attack earlier than they could react. That tactic played well for 75 minutes until, the crucial TMO decision corrected the Underhill try.
England however, crossed the line twice, to lead 15-0 after 30 minutes. It seemed that they had the better of the first half, and came back strong after 65 minutes – yet the scoreboard still reads 15-16. A loss, that will add to the 2018 poor record of the hosts.
Controversial decisions aside, the similarity in pressure to the British and Irish Lions series proves that the Northern hemisphere game has developed. The All Blacks took time to react. The huge intensity would be an education for the visitors, and after 80 minutes, all the players and fans would have taken a collective ‘breath of relief’.
Former All Black John Kirwin summed up the occasion, where he said “England were good. It was a classic tussle. But the All Blacks in the end, did enough.” He and other commentators will agree that every player will benefit from the experience.
“We know a bit more about each other. The learnings will be from both sides, and it is all on for next year.”
Eddie Jones’s reaction to the TMO decision will likely be on the side of his player. Social media already is judging the rights-and-wrongs of the ruling. But it takes nothing away from the enormity of the fixture. It was monumental – both sides put their bodies on the line, with highlights throughout.
All Blacks win at Twickenham Stadium
- two minutes into the game, Chris Ashton scores out wide
- Damian McKenzie smashed into touch by Sam Underhill
- an overthrown lineout by New Zealand, allows Owen Farrell to drop kick a goal
- a kicking battle over the opening 20 minutes is won by England, with possession advantage leading to more opportunities
- an England rolling maul from a lineout win, leads to Dylan Hartley crossing the line
- Sonny Bill Williams substituted by Ryan Crotty. New Zealand game plan changes from kicking, towards holding the ball – attacking the outside edge
- on the England line [under advantage] Beauden Barrett inside pass to McKenzie for a match-defining try
- England’s kick restart goes over the sideline, and New Zealand scrum on halfway. They march toward the redzone, before an offside penalty results in a successful kick
The second half was the redemption for the World Champions. They assumed the control desired by their fans. England substituted Jamie George, and while a strategic decision, the second half failure of the lineout saw multiple throw-ins by England stolen by the All Blacks.
- inside the England 22 meter area, under advantage, Barrett kicks a drop goal
- ten minutes into the second half, England kick for the sideline. A barrage on the All Blacks line is defended well by New Zealand, who repel the assualt
- Scott Barrett injected into the game at blindside, to retain the strength of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick for the entire 80 minutes
- 60th minute penalty converted by Beauden Barret, to assume the lead 15-16
- frantic attack from Damian McKenzie almost leads to a long-range try movement, with the ball just dislodged from his grip by an Owen Farrell super-tackle
- replacements flood the field, with England altering their inside center and wings. They appear to be aligned to attack more, and look to claim a key momentum shift
- 75 minutes gone; All Blacks ruck, TJ Perenara looks to clear the ball but Courtney Lawes charges down the ball. Sam Underhill runs 30 meters to score in the corner……
- Television match official reviews the try – ruling that Lawes was in front of the last feet of the ruck/offside line, and the try is disallowed.
What a test match. The game swung from each side – New Zealand recovered well, even as England stole back the game before the controversial final try was ruled as offside. But England Rugby has regained much respect from their fans, and from the International rugby community. They will be a real handful in 12 months time.
Raising the Edmund Hillary Shield (see below) a relived New Zealand audience will feel they were lucky. A downhearted England Rugby public will be proud that their side was able to push the mighty All Blacks, to within a fraction of an inch.
Steve Hansen spoke of his side showing good attitude and that they have taken many lessons away from the result. However, poor decisions early almost allowed the opposition to extend their lead [one that is harder to recover in these huge encounters] beyond recovery. Changing tactics proved that Kieran Read has a command of the game that is now world class, to help the All Blacks win a ‘close one’.
Of note; if the All Blacks sides handling had been improved, a healthier winning margin would have reflected their numerous opportunities and a tremendous display of running rugby in the wet conditions. If anything, this result reinforces the position of the captaincy, ahead of a challenge next week from the next best side in the World – Ireland.
Saturday’s display will also prove that England is in fact, a team who are difficult to beat on home soil, in their embattlement, of Twickenham Stadium. Lest we forget.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images