Fan view: Flustered All Blacks lacked spark

England celebrate their victory. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
England celebrate their victory. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Upsets don't come much bigger than this. But three quick tries sealed the deal as England ran away with an historic 38-21 thrashing of the All Blacks. The loss was the first for the All Blacks on a European tour since 2002.

It's hard to imagine a more unlikely storyline unfolding. This was an England team coming off the back of consecutive losses to Australia and South Africa. They were hurting and that had to count for something, but their lack of form was always going to make New Zealand a near impossible task.

In contrast the All Blacks entered with an undefeated record over their past 20 games. Only on occasion during that stretch had they looked like losing, being a class above the rest. Surely this final match was merely a formality.

Well it just goes to show that sports doesn't always go to plan. England brought an outstanding game, showing physicality, breakdown skill and were clinical in handing the All Blacks one of their worst ever defeats.

In contrast the All Blacks appeared flustered, under pressure for large parts of the game and unable to gain any momentum. Their basic skills for once let them down, as passes went astray and the usually immaculate hands weren't there. The spark that normally ignites this team seemed to be missing and for large periods they failed to threaten.

It was England who controlled the game from the start, as the All Blacks were sucked into a kicking duel which deprived them of the opportunity to attack the English defence. They didn't do this well either and found themselves scoreless after 40 minutes of rugby.

When they did attack they were met with a steely defence that held strong for the entire first half. It seemed no matter what they threw at England, it would be repelled and it was clear the alarm bells were beginning to ring.

England only grew in confidence, feeding off the energy of the crowd and kicking four goals through the accurate boot of Owen Farrell to take a 12-0 lead at the break. Notably Daniel Carter missed two kicks relatively handy to the posts in this time, points which could have significantly changed the way the second half played out.

Another Farrell penalty saw England take an unprecedented 15-0 lead a minute after the break and it appeared that an upset may have genuinely been on the cards.

But the All Blacks are world champions for a reason and over the next ten minutes they would mount a furious comeback. Cory Jane showed his class as he cut the defence to pieces three times, two of which led to tries, the first to Julian Savea and the second to Kieran Read. Carter kicked both conversions to make it a one point ball game.

The All Blacks were back and it seemed they would gain the lead and run away with it.

But it doesn't always quite work like that and the next ten minutes would rank amongst the finest in England rugby history and showed why they were deserved winners.

Two defensive blunders from the New Zealanders saw both England midfielders gain the opportunity to make breaks and through good support play both led to tries. Just minutes later a Manu Tuilagi intercept saw a third try was scored and with the score at 32-14 the All Blacks were trouble.

The final 20 minutes saw the All Blacks continue to throw the kitchen sink at their opponents, but were met with a determined rushed defence that kept fighting right until the end. A late consolation try was scored as Julian Savea grabbed a double, but that was far from comforting for a distraught All Blacks team.

In terms of the biggest upsets of all time this would certainly rate up there with the best of them. It wasn't just the fact that England won, it was the way they won.

They forced panic into a normally slick All Blacks team and found holes in what has been an outstanding defence all season. To go with this they showed a ten minute spell of running rugby that is rarely seen from the men in white, making it a particularly memorable outing.

England's forward pack were simply outstanding. Dan Coles was the best of the tight forwards, proving strong at scrum time and was influential at the breakdown. The looseforward trio were also brilliant, tackling well and constantly beat the All Blacks to the ball at ruck time.

Ben Youngs provided good service at the base, whilst Owen Farrell outside him gave a very balanced performance and was heroic with his boot.

Manu Tuilagi was the chief destroyer on attack, proving incisive in the second half, whilst midfield partner Brad Barritt was also prominent.

For the All Blacks there wasn't a lot to write home about. They looked good in patches, particularly in the first ten minutes of the second half.

Other than that they were a team that looked every bit like one at the end of a long season. The error rate was too high, too many penalties were conceded and they were unable to gain ascendency up front.

The scrum struggled from the get go, whilst the lineout gained parity at best. Not enough players being committed to the breakdowns and when they were they were too slow getting there. They went backwards too often at the contact situations and consequently the backs had no platform to work off.

Unsurprisingly then, the backs struggled. Cory Jane was dangerous running and did little wrong, whilst Julian Savea looked for work and was rewarded with two tries.

Other than this it really was a mixed bag, as both midfielders had their moments of brilliance as well as their moments of disaster. Daniel Carter had a game to forget reminding us he is in fact human, whilst Aaron Smith struggled with the messy ball he received.

The loss will undoubtedly hurt New Zealand. Their bid to break the world record for longest undefeated streak has been broken and with comes the end of their dream to complete an unbeaten season.

But you can't begrudge England. Not one bit. They were outstanding. Few teams beat the All Blacks. Even fewer do it comprehensively. Only once have they lost by a greater margin than 17 points and only four times has a team scored more than 38 points against them.

It was a truly memorable performance. One that will go down as one of the best in England rugby history.



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