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Match Report – New Zealand 16 – 15 England

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New Zealand's Ardie Savea scored one of his side's tries against England

New Zealand’s Ardie Savea scored one of his side’s tries against England

Damian McKenzie’s three second-half penalties thwarted England’s hopes of a first win away to New Zealand since 2003 as they went down 16-15 in the opening Test in Dunedin.

The All Blacks made their early dominance count with unconverted tries from Sevu Reece and Ardie Savea, with England responding through Maro Itoje forcing his way over from close range followed by Marcus Smith converting.

Fly-half Smith, who had missed an earlier penalty, brought England back level at 10-10 at the break with his boot and although he missed another after the restart, his pass led to Immanuel Feyi-Waboso finishing to put Steve Borthwick’s side ahead.

New Zealand: Tries – Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea; Penalties: – Damian McKenzie (2).

England: Tries – Maro Itoje, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso; Conversion – Marcus Smith; Penalty: – Marcus Smith.

McKenzie kicked two penalties to restore New Zealand’s lead, and they survived a late error after the shot clock expired while the No 10 was lining up a kick at goal to snatch a one-point victory.

Story of the game

New Zealand, playing their first game under new head coach Scott Robertson, showed their attacking intent as they probed down England’s wings in the opening minutes, but the strength of the visitors’ set-piece earned them the first penalty of the game.

Yet Smith was unable to knock over what was a relatively kickable attempt from 40 metres out and the early pressure from the hosts eventually told in the 16th minute. Utilising the penalty advantage, New Zealand fly-half McKenzie sent a pinpoint kick to the right wing which was collected by Reece followed by the winger racing away to finish.

New Zealand took an early lead against England through Sevu Reece grabbing Damian McKenzie's kick to the corner

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New Zealand took an early lead against England through Sevu Reece grabbing Damian McKenzie’s kick to the corner

New Zealand took an early lead against England through Sevu Reece grabbing Damian McKenzie’s kick to the corner

England’s cause was not helped by losing Joe Marler, replaced by debutant prop Fin Baxter, but they edged in front five minutes later on the back of Itoje’s pick and go from close range for a converted try shortly after Chandler Cunningham-South, born in Sidcup but raised in New Zealand, was denied.

It was not long before the All Blacks were back in front, though, and, with England’s defence at sixes and sevens following miscommunication between Ben Earl and George Furbank, full-back Stephen Perofeta picked the pass which sent rampaging No 8 Savea through for a second try.

But it was all square at the break after New Zealand came unstuck trying to run the ball from inside their own half on the final play, conceding a penalty which this time Smith slotted over to draw the tourists level.

Marcus Smith missed a straightforward kick to give England the lead against New Zealand

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Marcus Smith missed a straightforward kick to give England the lead against New Zealand

Marcus Smith missed a straightforward kick to give England the lead against New Zealand

A knee injury suffered by TJ Perenara late in the first half forced a switch at scrum-half for the hosts too, with Finlay Christie replacing him, but they were given a let-off in the opening five minutes of the second half when Smith pulled another kickable penalty attempt wide.

The Harlequins No 10 played a key role in England taking the lead in the 47th minute, though, pulling the strings for Feyi-Waboso’s score. Tommy Freeman was initially tackled just short, with England then working the ball from right to left for Smith to pick out the Exeter Chiefs winger with a bullet pass to the wing.

Yet once again, Smith’s kicking let him down as he was unable to convert, and the lead was narrowed to two points in the 54th minute as opposite number McKenzie slotted over from a penalty for his first successful kick at goal in three attempts.

Smith sent Immanuel Feyi-Waboso free to go over in the corner and give England the lead

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Smith sent Immanuel Feyi-Waboso free to go over in the corner and give England the lead

Smith sent Immanuel Feyi-Waboso free to go over in the corner and give England the lead

He landed a second 11 minutes later as England were pinged for a ruck infringement defending their 22, but then gifted the away side a chance with under two minutes to go as he took too long to take a kick at goal from a penalty which would have all but sealed victory.

Despite throwing caution to the wind, England were unable to fashion an opportunity for a score and when the referee blew for a ruck infringement against them with the clock in the red, it allowed the All Blacks to breathe a sigh of relief.

‘England so close to creating history’

Sky Sports rugby union expert and former England international Will Greenwood:

“You could tell it was New Zealand’s first time together. They’ve lost some key players through retirement and playing in Japan. Their lineout wobbles, they had to resort to kicking as they couldn’t get their attacking game going.

“On the flip side of that, I thought England at times were outstanding. Their defence kept them in the game for long periods and then they went after New Zealand in the second half.

“The frustrating thing about sport is you can’t go back and play the last 15 minutes again. The beauty is they get to have another crack at it next week.

“They were so close to creating some history today.”

Ahead of the first summer Test against New Zealand, England faced the iconic Haka!

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Ahead of the first summer Test against New Zealand, England faced the iconic Haka!

Ahead of the first summer Test against New Zealand, England faced the iconic Haka!

Former New Zealand international Nick Evans, speaking on Sky Sports:

“Credit to the England defence, Felix [Jones, England defence coach] has done a brilliant job. Their line speed and post-tackle work especially caused New Zealand a lot of problems.

“The All Blacks stayed in the fight in the second half. The lineout capitulated but their scrum was excellent. They didn’t quite get the speed of ball they wanted but they ground out a victory, which is going to be really important leading into Eden Park next week.”

What they said

England captain Jamie George, speaking to Sky Sports:

“I’m incredibly proud of the way we went out and attacked the game. Not a lot of teams come to New Zealand and do that. That shows the huge amount of growth in this team.

“There are definitely some areas [for improvement] – the scrum was one, the breakdown probably another. We’ll do a lot of honest work next week and make sure we go to Eden Park fully prepared.

“We wanted to make people at home very proud. I think we did that with our effort. A game of very fine margins.”

New Zealand head coach Scott Robertson, speaking to Sky Sports:

“We got into a hell of an arm wrestle, which we know Steve Borthwick’s teams are really good at. We didn’t get our kick game right, pushed straight after half-time and the second half was just a grind – and we got there.

“I keep thinking of the things that went wrong when I should think of the things that went right, like the score. It’s their sixth game of the year, it’s our first and we’re in a pretty steep learning curve.”

What’s next?

England now head to Auckland for the second and final Test of the series against New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday July 13. That match is live on Sky Sports Action from 7.30am BST (kick-off 8am).

Watch England, Wales and Ireland’s summer rugby union internationals exclusively live on Sky Sports. Stream rugby’s summer internationals in 2024 and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership. No contract, cancel anytime.





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