All Blacks far from their best but fight back to beat England and earn a B

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New Zealand came from 15-0 down to beat England 16-15 at Twickenham.

World champions New Zealand came from 15-0 down to beat England 16-15 in a thrilling November Test at a rainswept Twickenham on Saturday.

England, bidding for just their eighth win over the All Blacks in 41 Tests, surged into a shock 15-0 lead on the back of tries by Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley.

But New Zealand were only five points down at half-time thanks to Damian McKenzie’s converted try and a Beauden Barrett penalty.

Fly-half Barrett’s second-half drop-goal and penalty then proved the decisive scores.

Here’s our report card from a thrilling contest.

THE GOOD

Stunning McKenzie: There was nobody more exciting on the field than the 5′ 9″ full-back. His pace, power and skill level was head and shoulders above any other player in Twickenham and he capped off a fine performance with a try just before half-time.

The 23-year-old also made 55 metres and beat 11 defenders – six more than any other player on the pitch. Everything good about the All Blacks came from their star man, and lock Brodie Retallick.

England spirit: No-one can blame the Red Rose for effort. They worked hard right up to the 80th minute, trying to score tries, hold back the All Blacks wave, keep the score respectable. It is not the effort that can be faulted, especially with a string of injuries to big name players.

England will be disappointed with the TMO’s decision not to award Sam Underhill a late try, but nevertheless, to restrict the All Blacks to just 16 points is an outstanding feat.

THE BAD

England mistakes: If you are going to beat the All Blacks, you cannot make mistakes. But the Red Rose missed 29 tackles from a total of 192 – just an 80 per cent tackle rate. They conceded seven penalties and lost five out of their 15 lineouts. In contrast, the All Blacks had a tackle success rate of 88 per cent, conceded three less penalties and only lost one lineout.

First 38 mins for All Blacks: Trailing 15-0, the visitors looked a frustrated unit and were unable to breach a granite-like England defensive wall. They were steamrolled at various points of the opening half, but went on to re-organise themselves, find their confidence and they held on to grind out another victory.

Poor substitutions: Leading by five points at the break, Eddie Jones opted to substitute his co-captain Hartley at a point when his side were in control. It was a strange time for the boss to take off his trusted lieutenant and England were subsequently outplayed in the lineout in the second half with New Zealand stealing all five of their throws.

KEY MOMENTS

2 minutes: Ben Youngs sends a cleverly weighted pass out to the right wing and Ashton dives over in the corner to score a try. Fairytale start for England.

10 minutes: Hartley steals the ball from the lineout. Two phases later, Youngs flings it back to Owen Farrell who clips over a drop goal to make it 8-0.

24 minutes: From a lineout, Maro Itoje sets up the driving maul and within seconds, the All Blacks are driven back 20 metres to send Hartley over. Farrell converts to make it 15-0.

39 minutes: With a penalty advantage in the bag, Aaron Smith slips the ball to Beauden Barrett who pops the ball to McKenzie for an easy dive over. Barrett converts to cut the lead to eight points (7-15).

40 minutes: Barrett kicks a penalty just before the break to close the gap to five points.

46 minutes: Barrett receives possession and floats a drop goal from the 22 to make it 13-15. It was his first ever international drop goal.

60 minutes: The Hurricanes fly-half sneaks the ball through the posts to put the All Blacks in the lead for the first time in the match.

TACTICAL TURNING POINTS

A belter of a Test. After struggling for nearly the entire first half, the All Blacks introduced Ryan Crotty for the injured Sonny Bill Williams and that substitution immediately brought momentum back into the game. Mistakes towards the conclusion of the first half allowed the All Blacks to go in just five points behind and they duly upped the intensity in the second half.

Steve Hansen’s side may only have kicked two penalties after the break, but they looked dangerous in the loose play and their transition from defence into attack in wet conditions was outstanding.

In addition, their ability to dominate the England lineout (pinching five of their throws) and make an impact in the tight areas were the key differences at Twickenham.

VERDICT

England B: You cannot fault the Red Rose’s fight but although they improved in nearly every facet, they still struggled in the lineout in the second half and only had 37 per cent and 36 per cent possession and territory respectively.

New Zealand B-: As good as they were the All Blacks can still be better. Hansen will see a lot that can be improved before they face Ireland in the game of the series next week in Dublin.

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