The play that can summarize the match relates to Ben Smith and his superb tackle on Manu Tuilagi. In that situation I think the majority of both New Zealand and England expected a large fend resulting in a try for the Englishman. So close but yet so far, England performing well but just not enough to topple the World Champions. First of all before we talk about the result and a 28-27 win for New Zealand, it is not an effective method of gauging the gap between the two teams. It was a game of two halves with England looking in control in the first half before New Zealand launched their attacking game in an impressive stint in the second half before letting their foot off the pedal towards the end of the game.
Starting with the first half, England launched their dominance through the pack and three consecutive driving mauls were New Zealand were all penalized and resulted in a warning from the referee. An extraordinary feat considering the game was just 3 minutes old. The maul as England used it to try and gain a territorial gain as well as retain possession, from this solid base they could then launch attacks as seen in Marland Yarde’s try. This provides the advantage for the attack giving a one on one opportunity in the backs. England went away from it in the second half as they looked to play more expansively, I think we can expect to see Lancaster implement this as part of his strategy in forthcoming games.
England dominated the territory and possession in the first half but showed very little gain from it, after the penalty warning New Zealand changed their game committing rarely at the ruck. This fan defense led to England’s attack becoming slow and moving across the pitch and often resulting in a turnover. As the half went on New Zealand slowly became more dominant due to their effective defense. Slowly their attacking threats came in to the game; there was some evidence that Ben Smith and Ma’a Nonu appear to be the best attacking weapons in the New Zealand team.
New Zealand are slow starters when it comes to test series, they were relentless in the first 25 minutes of the second half scoring three tries through a Julian Savea brace and Ma’a Nonu. During this 25 minute New Zealand won it 22-3. New Zealand’s game strategy appears to be based around kicking for territory and either stealing or forcing a turnover from which they can score from usually within 5 phases. For this reason alone, I feel New Zealand could be given the title of the most threatening team off turnover ball.
Some general pieces from the game, England were using a rush defense on occasion based around Twelvetrees rushing up into to stop New Zealand accessing the wide players outside Ma’a Nonu. England’s defense were caught narrow far too often, Marland Yarde in particular was caught narrow on multiple occasions allowing New Zealand the freedom of the 15m channel. The scrum dominance completely changed from last week where England dominated; in contrast New Zealand held the upper hand this week with a solid scrum and often driving back the English scrum on our ball.
Points to Take Away
I would expect to see Ashton perform well against the Crusaders in the midweek match. He came on and looked somewhere near to the Ashton of old tracking the ball well for his try.
Manu Tuilagi needs to work on his attack. Far too often Tuilagi took the ball into contact by running straight at his man like a battering ram and often was put down to ground. I feel Tuilagi needs to adjust his game and looked for some agility before contact and run at the outstretched arms of defenders, which might result in more line breaks as we saw in the first test.
David Wilson should start from the bench if England has the provision. His scrummaging may be effective but his abilities in the loose are below par and negate hi scrummaging ability as to why he is in the team.
England should have used their impact subs such as Lawes, Vunipola and Hartley earlier in order to stem the tide. There were some long passages of ball in play time, which would have taken its toll on the England players who are not used to those sorts of periods that are more identifiable with Super Rugby.