With five tries to one - three of which came from Julian Savea - New Zealand gave England a harsh lesson in the last game of this summer series with a 36-13 win, writes Alan Dymock in Hamilton
An exhibition of power, pace and perhaps even cruelty was put on by the world champion All Blacks in Hamilton as they put away a lacklustre England with a dominant first half performance, securing a record-equaling 17th Test win in a row on their way.
It was a match of contrasting trajectories, with the All Blacks finally clicking while England could not string phases together as they have done on this trip, lacking accuracy in most facets of their game. Yes, England won a few minor skirmishes right at the start of the second half, but their hosts always had enough to blast past the tourists’ midfield in the first, and Julian Savea eventually, greedily, helping himself to three tries.
It was a weary end to a tour that had, up to this point, earned England much respect for their endeavour and adventure. If ever there was a game for them to tighten it up sooner and not gift the ball to the All Blacks’ back three, though, this was it.
Things were bad for England from the off. Freddie Burns could not send his kick-off ten metres and missed a penalty. Two minutes later, after balls kicked out on the full or gifted to the All Blacks, Savea was benefiting from simple numbers to get his first. Aaron Smith slipped off a Chris Ashton tackle and the monstrous winger cantered in at the corner.
Burns clipped over a penalty of his own but there were few breathes between that and Savea scoring a second. Aaron Cruden cruised between England’s centres and the winger stepped inside beyond Ashton, Marland Yarde and Chris Robshaw to dot down after picked the ball of his toes in heavy drizzle.
It was a time when England should have been playing ugly rugby, despite their team manifesto, but after a penalty to both sides, Billy Vunipola was taking a yellow card for a suspected high tackle on Cruden. In his absence England huffed and puffed but after seven minutes England coughed up another try. In no time at all Aaron Smith was scoring his own first-half brace as well after Yarde totally missed a tackle on Jane.
Four tries to the hosts in the half. It was brutal stuff. So much so that Kieran Read was taken off at half-time – they didn’t need him – while Kyle Eastmond was the one carrying the can, being replaced by Luther Burrell after a defensive display that may take some time to recover from.
The changes had some effect, because Yarde quickly made amends for his earlier missed tackle by scoring an unlikely pick-and-go try soon after the whistle. Ben Youngs sucked players in after Joe Launchbury set him on his course. Tuilagi did what he did best and the winger could not believe his luck as he plonked over from a yard.
There was plenty of back and forth after this and New Zealand even had a man in the bin for cynical maul-play by Wyatt Crockett, but England just could not puncture the All Blacks’ line when they wanted to. Yarde continued to be bright and ambitious, churning up 40-metre runs and putting his hand up whenever the ball was on offer, but even he was getting gobbled up by Savea and Ben Smith when he got anywhere near the Kiwi line.
Then, just as the second half looked to be thinning out, the All Blacks showed the extent of their mean streak. A hooter signaled the end of the 80 minutes but instead of knocking a penalty into touch the hosts went on one last attack.
Phases were accumulated until, three minutes after the 80-minute announcement, Cory Jane was able to scoop a pass over the top with Savea trotting in for his hat-trick and his 23rd try in 22 Tests.
As lessons go it was harsh, but there are no prizes in rugby for pushing a team hard for two games out of three. England gained plenty from the first two matches in this series, but New Zealand were just that much better in the end. There is much work ahead for this England team with New Zealand back at Twickenham in November.