England fall short in Dunedin as New Zealand secure Test series
By Rob Lancaster. Last Updated: 14/06/14 4:25pm
New Zealand rallied from a half-time deficit to defeat England 28-27 in the second Test in Dunedin, a result that means they secure the three-match series with a game to spare.
Marland Yarde scored an early try as England, boosted by the return of their Aviva Premiership finalists, threatened to gain revenge for the heartbreaking manner of their 20-15 defeat in Auckland seven days ago.
Owen Farrell kicked a conversion and a penalty to give Stuart Lancaster's side a 10-6 lead at the break, one that could have been even greater had it not been for a brilliant try-saving tackle by Ben Smith on Manu Tuilagi.
The moment proved crucial as the All Blacks hit their opponents with a 22-point burst in the space of 20 minutes that included tries from the outstanding Smith, winger Julian Savea and centre Ma'a Nonu.
Late scores from Mike Brown and replacement Chris Ashton - who went over on the last play of the game - meant, in the end, England finished a point shy of keeping the series alive and ending New Zealand's run of 32 consecutive victories on home soil.
Again, though, it was a case of so near but yet so far. They had been the better side in a first half that started and finished with penalties; in between there was somehow just the one try, despite a raft of opportunities for both teams, and barely a moment for the 28,400-capacity crowd at the Forsyth Barr Stadium to draw breath, let alone the players.
Having already wasted a glorious opportunity when a Joe Launchbury block set up a counter attack England did manage to get over through Yarde in the eighth minute.
The winger ripped through the attempted tackle of Richie McCaw off the back of a scrum move and just about had the wingspan to reach out with his right arm and ground the ball, leaving Farrell with an easy conversion attempt.
The fly-half had already slotted over an early penalty from 40 metres out, meaning the tourists found themselves 10-0 up before the All Blacks had barely managed to muster an attack.
New Zealand managed a quick response with an Aaron Cruden penalty although he missed another attempt at the posts, Mike Brown being forced to hold onto the ball having covered brilliantly across to the right wing to deal with a kick in behind Manu Tuilagi.
It seemed New Zealand would score on the same side of the field right before the break, only for Cory Jane to spill possession. His error created an opportunity for a counter attack that Tuilagi gratefully accepted, the Leicester man galloping clear towards the opposite end of the field.
Ben Smith, though, came across to produce a last-ditch tackle to deny the makeshift winger. It was a turning point, not least as Cruden’s penalty soon after cut the gap to four at the interval.
Within three minutes of the re-start the scoreline, as well as the momentum, had shifted in New Zealand’s favour.
Having saved a try at the same end of the field in the previous half, full-back Smith showed his abilities in attack by finishing a flowing move down the left that had all stemmed from a loose offload by England centre Billy Twelvetrees. With forwards stuck out wide like a line of large pegs trying to fill round holes, the visitors were left horribly exposed in defence.
Cruden’s conversion made it 13-10 and although England did get back on level terms through a Farrell penalty, New Zealand were now firmly in the ascendency.
Some smart handling put Savea in the left corner to give the All Blacks a lead they would not relinquish again, even if both Cruden and his replacement at fly-half, Beau Barrett, were off target with kicks.
Farrell’s sin-binning for not rolling away gifted Barrett the chance, a much easier one at that, to make amends for his earlier missed penalty, and with the numerical advantage New Zealand put the game to bed when Nonu forced his way through some tired tacklers down the right.
England actually made the final scoreline even closer than the first Test thanks to efforts from Brown and Ashton, though by then they knew the game was up. They will now hope to avoid a series sweep in the third Test, which takes place in Wellington next Saturday.