New Zealand 28-27 England: So near and yet so far

Aaron Smith has plenty of support as he launches another attack. Picture: Getty
Aaron Smith has plenty of support as he launches another attack. Picture: Getty
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ENGLAND slumped to a series defeat to New Zealand after being picked apart with clinical efficiency in a devastating second-half spell in Dunedin.

Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: B.Smith, Savea, Nonu. Cons: Cruden, Barrett. Pens: Cruden 2, Barrett. England: Tries: Yarde, Brown, Ashton. Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell 2.

A 10-6 interval lead turned into a three-try victory for the All Blacks that was far more emphatic than the scoreline suggests, Mike Brown and Chris Ashton crossing late on to sugar-coat the loss.

Tries from Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu took the match beyond England’s reach, even if Brown’s 72nd-minute score offered brief hope of a fightback.

Stand-off Aaron Cruden slotted a conversion and two penalties, while his replacement Beauden Barrett added a conversion and a penalty for the home side, who now have an 16-match unbeaten streak.

Winger Marland Yarde, full-back Brown and Ashton scored tries for England, while Owen Farrell, sinbinned for a professional foul midway through the second half, slotted three conversions and two penalties.

The All Blacks had bumbled to a 20-15 victory in the first game at Eden Park and been under pressure from coach Steve Hansen and captain Richie McCaw to lift their performance under the roof in Dunedin.

Both, however, would have been ruing their side’s start. All of England’s first-half points came in a blistering opening ten minutes when they denied the All Blacks the ball and the home side fell foul of referee Jaco Peyper, which allowed the visitors to kick downfield for attacking lineouts.

“There was a lot of energy in that first ten when a couple of mistakes put us under the pump,” McCaw said of an early Farrell penalty and Yarde’s converted try.

“We started to slowly get into the game late in the first half and had some momentum into the second half and getting points early put us in control of the game.”

The All Blacks were kept in the match by two first half penalties from Cruden before they exploded in the second. Full-back Smith finished off a breathtaking counter-attack from 80 metres out before Savea went over in the corner to cap off a 12-point scoring burst inside five minutes, Nonu grabbing the third try when Farrell was in the sinbin.

Brown scored inside the final ten minutes to keep England within sight but, by the time subsitute Ashton scored his try in the final minute, the game was over and only made the scoreline look closer than the match was.

“We showed glimpses,” England captain Chris Robshaw said. “We finished really strongly and started really strongly [but]… we lost just a little bit of control in the second half early on where we couldn’t get hold of the ball. It’s a results-based industry and we have to look at two losses and have lost the series now [but]… we have come a long way in the last couple of weeks and hopefully we will get better.”

Hamilton hosts the third and final Test on Saturday.

New Zealand: B Smith; Jane, C Smith, Nonu, Savea; Cruden, Woodcock; Coles, Franks, Retallick, Whitelock, Messam, McCaw, Kaino, A Smith. Subs: Mealamu, Crockett, Faumuina, Tuipulotu, Vito, Perenara, Barrett, Fekitoa.

England: Brown; Tuilagi, Burrell, Twelvetrees, Yarde; Farrell, Care; Marler, Webber, Wilson, Launchbury, Parling, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan. Subs: Hartley, Mullan, Brookes, Lawes, Vunipola, Youngs, Burns, Ashton.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).