By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
In a nutshell
England stunned the world champions with the type of complete, dominant performance they have been striving for all autumn. It was one of those matches when everything clicked for Stuart Lancaster’s side and they made a mockery of pre-match predictions to secure a memorable – and comfortable – win over New Zealand. Owen Farrell was the key man in the first half, building a lead with his boot while Dan Carter was uncharacteristically off-target, and after New Zealand hit back with two quick tries early in the second half Manu Tuilagi came to the fore as England crossed three times themselves.
The Ash Splash is back! Chris Ashton may have coughed a couple of balls into touch when England were putting pressure on the All Blacks, but when Manu Tuilagi made a sweet break in the opposition 22 in the 58th minute it was the Saracens wing on his shoulder. And he completed the score with a swallow dive, much to the crowd’s delight, as England extended their lead to a more comfortable 25-14.
Manu Tuilagi was involved in all three England tries, adding a real spark to the hosts’ attacking game and causing New Zealand problems. He linked sweetly with Brad Barritt down the left wing for the first England try, broke clean through to set Chris Ashton up for the second and then intercepted a Kieran Read pass to sprint clear for the third.
Room for improvement
England appeared to learn all the lessons from the previous defeats to Australia and South Africa, so the challenge now is maintaining that in the Six Nations. Their powerful defence closed the All Blacks attacking game down and denied them the quick ball to which they are so accustomed while their set-piece also remained solid.
Their attacking game also appeared to click, with support runners available as players made breaks when for much of the autumn they have been noticeably absent.
While England’s purpose and intent meant All Blacks couldn’t get a foothold in terms of territory and points, the world champions must learn to play when things aren’t going their way and they can’t get such quick ball. Maybe they need to grind it through the forwards occasionally rather than always look to go wide.
In quotes – winners
Man of the Match Tom Wood: “It’s absolutely brilliant. This is a day that will live long in the memory. We poured our hearts and souls into that after a frustrating couple of weeks; it was a brilliant effort from the guys.”
In quotes – losers
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw: “We prepared for a big battle with 15 blokes coming out to play. Just after half-time we got the momentum back but we coughed it straight back and they’re a good team who took their chances.”
England’s 17-point margin of victory is their biggest ever against New Zealand – their previous best a 13-0 win in 1936 – and the second heaviest defeat the All Blacks have suffered. It is England’s 350th Test win.
ENGLAND: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi (Jonathan Joseph 67), Brad Barritt, Mike Brown; Owen Farrell (Freddie Burns 65), Ben Youngs (Danny Care 69); Alex Corbisiero (Mako Vunipola 67), Tom Youngs (David Paice 73), Dan Cole (David Wilson 73), Joe Launchbury (Courtney Lawes 67), Geoff Parling, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (captain), Ben Morgan (James Haskell 58).
Tries: Barritt, Ashton, Tuilagi. Con: Farrell. Pens: Farrell 4, Burns 2. DG: Farrell.
Sin-bin: Vunipola (74min).
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg (Ben Smith 71); Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Dan Carter (Aaron Cruden 63), Aaron Smith (Piri Weepu 63); Tony Woodcock (Wyatt Crockett 67), Keven Mealamu (Dane Coles 63), Owen Franks (Charlie Faumuina 53), Brodie Retallick (Luke Romano 50), Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam (Victor Vito 63), Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Tries: Savea 2, Read. Cons: Carter 2, Cruden.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)