New Zealand scored three second-half tries to beat England 28-27 in the second rugby Test for a winning 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
England led 10-6 at halftime but New Zealand rallied, scoring 22 points to 17 in the second half with tries by fullback Ben Smith, winger Julian Savea and centre Ma’a Nonu.
Smith’s try gave New Zealand its first lead of the match in the 43rd minute and followed his critical, try-saving tackle on England winger Manu Tuilagi in the dying minutes of the first half, which helped swing the match the All Blacks’ way.
As the match opened up in the second half to the All Blacks’ advantage – and as England was reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of flyhalf Owen Farrell in the 58th minute – tries to Savea in the 50th minute and Nonu in the 63rd drove home the hosts’ superiority.
England scored tries through winger Marland Yarde in the eighth minute and fullback Mike Brown in the 71st, then finished with a try to winger Chris Ashton from Tuilagi’s pass after the final siren.
“We’ve come a long way in the past few weeks and we’ll continue to get better,” England captain Chris Robshaw said. “We just lost a bit of control there in that second half, early on.
“We just couldn’t get hold of the ball really. We showed glimpses, we finished really strongly, we started really strongly – it was just that middle bit.
“It’s a result-based industry and unfortunately we’ve had two losses and lost the series now, but we’ve got another match to come next week and we’re going to come out fighting again.”
The All Blacks had been irritated by England’s triumphalism after their 20-15 defeat in last weekend’s first Test at Auckland and were determined to force them into silence. England boasted they had shattered the “myth” of All Blacks invincibility and even questioned world champion New Zealand’s claim to the number one world ranking.
That self-confidence in defeat fired the All Blacks’ determination to beat England more convincingly in the second Test than they had in the first. They achieved their 30th victory in 38 meetings between the teams since 1905, but their performance was again liberally strewn with errors which blunted their effectiveness until the second half.
New Zealand was rocked by England’s dynamic beginning but they were also severely disadvantaged by conceding three early penalties and earning a general warning, which forced them to be untypically cautious at breakdowns.
England, in contrast, had an opportunity to play as they wished: unpenalised for offsides or obstructions, which gave the players confidence and momentum. The first half was played at a frenetic pace and England, which had 68% of territory and a surplus of possession, brought a new level of skill and enterprise to the game.
“I think there was a lot of energy in the first 10 minutes but a couple of mistakes in a row put us under the pump,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. “We felt we started to get into the game late in the first half and we just wanted to get momentum coming into the second half.
“Getting points early put us in control of the game. We were a bit disappointed last week. Even though [we] got the result, we felt we hadn’t played to the level we expect as All Blacks. That was the big focus this week and because we got the job done that means we’re two up in the series.”
Smith’s tackle on Tuilagi near the end of the first half was possibly the key moment in the game. Winger Cory Jane had knocked the ball on with the All Blacks on attack and Tuilagi, moved from centre to the wing for this game, collected possession and surged into the open down the right flank.
As he hurtled towards the All Blacks line, seeking a try that might give England a decisive 14 point lead nearing halftime, Smith coursed across the field and hauled him down with no other defender in sight. Flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked a penalty shortly afterwards, which cut England’s halftime lead to four points.
Smith then scored the All Blacks’ first try when scrumhalf Aaron Smith broke the England defence, worked the ball out wide to winger Julian Savea – who added vital punch to the All Blacks backline – and Savea returned the ball infield for the fullback to score.
Savea scored himself soon after and Nonu added the All Blacks’ third try, stepping past two tacklers after taking a wide ball from his long-time midfield partner Conrad Smith.
England, trailing 28-13, then found the depths of character to rally themselves. Brown scored in the 71st minute and Ashton after the fulltime siren to remove any breadth from New Zealand’s winning margin. – Sapa-AP
New Zealand: 28
Tries: Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu
Penalties: Aaron Cruden (2), Beauden Barrett
Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2)
Tries: Marland Yarde, Mike Brown and Chris Ashton
Penalties: Owen Farrell (2)
Conversions: Owen Farrell (3)