England vs New Zealand Report
The pouring rain at Twickenham couldn't ruin a brilliant afternoon of rugby as the All Blacks completed a memorable comeback win, recovering from 15-0 down to beat England 15-16 in an enthralling Autumn test match.
England took an early lead through the returning Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley added a second try to give Eddie Jones' side a commanding lead but brilliant play by New Zealand and an aberration on half time by Owen Farrell gave the All Blacks the momentum that they used to turn the match around in the second half.
A try from Damian McKenzie and excellent kicking from Beauden Barrett gave the world champions a big win.
The build up to the match was very different to how it would have been two years ago, when there was talk of England changing their autumn internationals to accommodate a match against the All Blacks following the whitewash win in Australia.
Back then the talk was of England being the best in the world under Eddie Jones, just a year after their disastrous home World Cup, and taking on the World champions to prove just how far they'd come.
Two years later, and following failure in this year's Six Nations and the failed tour to South Africa, the build up was more about whether the Red Rose could give New Zealand a bloody nose a year before next year's World Cup in Japan.
Much had been made of England's performance against South Africa last week and of Owen Farrell's last minute controversial tackle that had confirmed Eddie Jones' side's win, also of Chris Ashton's return to his England starting XV for the first time in four years, when England had played against New Zealand in the All Blacks' own backyard.
Farrell coming up against Beauden Barrett to prove who is the best number 10 in the world and Brad Shields coming up against his country in only his second match at Twickenham added to the narrative.
Before the match some players had called on England fans to drown out the Haka and 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' rang around 'HQ' as the All Blacks performed the traditional war dance.
England made an excellent start with Farrell's kick off being knocked on by Brodie Rettalik on the 22 and took the lead on two minutes through Ashton following the scrum. Kyle Sinkler, Maro Itoje and Ben Te'o all made brilliant yards before the ball went wide to Ashton who went over in the corner thanks to the wet ground.
An excellent box kick from Ben Youngs gave England possession in the opposition half after Sam Underhill took Damian McKenzie over the touchline with a brilliant tackle.
Jonny May's grubber kick to the corner nearly gave England another scoring chance but McKenzie recovered well to take the ball over the line and the home side had a scrum on the five metre line but it was the under pressure southern hemisphere side who won the penalty but Codie Taylor could only find a white shirt from the line out.
A break from Underhill gave England excellent possession and Farrell sat in the pocket and added three more points to give England an 8-0 lead.
As the rain started to pour again New Zealand finally had some good territory but England mainly kept their opposition outside the 22 and soon England had a penalty just inside the All Blacks' half which Daly hammered toward the five metre line. Hartley found Itoje from the line out and the England maul drove perfectly, aided by everyone, over the line and Hartley only his third international try, this time his fellow co-captain added the extras.
Suddenly the ground was alive again and Underhill put a big hit on McKenzie from a Young box kick and Barrett unbelievably missed touch from the penalty that had come.
Ben Smith's break from his own 22 into England's was a rare moment of quality from the All Blacks but it came to nothing as he knocked the ball on as he was tackled into touch before Henry Slade found touch deep in All Black territory.
Aaron Smith's box kick, around the half hour mark, straight into touch rather summed up how the reigning world champions were playing.
After some relentless pressure, helped by McKenzie's excellent break, in the England half the All Blacks' finally won a penalty and chose to have a scrum inside the 22 rather than take their first points of the game. The decision was the right one as McKenzie, easily the All Blacks' best attacking player, went over the line after lovely hands from Barrett.
Farrell made a huge mistake by putting the kick off straight out on the full and the All Blacks took advantage, winning a penalty and adding the three on half time to pull it back to 15-10 at the break and suddenly with the advantage.
Ardie Savea should have scored a try less than two minutes into the second half but couldn't hold onto the ball as the try line beckoned unopposed from Aaron Smith's pass and England were spared again when Rieko Ioane couldn't collect a poor pass on the touchline.
And Barrett soon reduced the lead to 15-13 when he slotted his own drop kick between the sticks and suddenly, for the first time, it looked likely that the All Blacks would win.
Just a minute later and Owen Farrell's brilliant kick gave England a penalty inside the New Zealand 22 as the defending side failed to release the player. England drove for the line and won another penalty, again Farrell kicked for the corner and the crowd certainly backed the decision.
Jamie George again found Itoje but the maul was held up this time. Ben Youngs broke for the line but was tackled as he stretched forward and Kyle Sinckler knocked on from the ruck.
An offside from England gave New Zealand the chance to go ahead for the first time in the match and Barrett made it 16-15 with 20 minutes to go of the match.
Ben Youngs chip kick could only find Kieran Read who set McKenzie on his way for another brilliant run. Farrell made a much needed tackle and the full back knocked the ball on.
The second half was pretty much defined by George's failure at the line out after the hooker had come on for Hartley at half time.
Just as New Zealand looked certain to win Courtney Lawes charged down a box kick and Sam Underhill turned Barrett twice to go over the line and look to give England the lead but the TMO decided that the lock had been offside and the decision went against the home side.
Suddenly England were revitalised and were moving the ball quickly again. May made a break and suddenly the Red Rose were camped on the New Zealand 22 only for Lawes pass to go high to Henry Slade with the Exeter Chief knocking on.
That was that and the All Blacks had come through as tough a test as they're likely to face to win by one point.
For England the performance was improved from last week, for much of the game, and they were perhaps unlucky to lose because of the TMO. Next week Jones' men face Japan whilst the world number one travel to Ireland to face the world number two team.