In awful wet and windy conditions at Twickenham, England, oh so nearly bested the number one team in the world succumbing to a 15-16 defeat. To be honest it was a match full of mistakes from the moment Brodie Retallick, who is currently the best lock forward in the game, inexplicably dropped the opening kick off to when England ignored the opportunity of taking a drop kick to try and win the match. From the aforementioned kick off England powered through to create a try for Chris Ashton, a penalty followed soon after, the World Champions were shell shocked. Another try from a driving maul saw joint-captain Dylan Hartley driven over, 15-0 and not even 25 minutes on the clock. Crucially there was still 55+ to go.
Then it happened, it was always going to, New Zealand hit their stride, reducing the deficit to 5 points by half time and then somehow botched attempts to cross the tryline again on a couple of occasions, early in the second half. One break was outstanding but somehow Ardie Savea dropped the ball with the try line beckoning, maybe just maybe this was going to be England’s day. However a drop goal and penalty from Beauden Barrett put the All Blacks in the lead for the first time with 20 to go, it looked like they had ground themselves out of trouble yet again and would runaway with it but…….
RED ROSE ROAR BACK
England came back into the game and it became a real arm wrestle. Eddie Jones had said he had a gameplan he thought would give England a great opportunity of the win and boy it did. Both sides continued to make mistakes, lost lineouts, dropped balls, plenty of knock on’s, it was oh so frantic as the clock ticked towards the final whistle. Then with minutes to go, Courtney Lawes charged down a kick from TJ Perenara and Sam Underhill ran away with the ball to score a try and maybe just maybe win it for the hosts. However the 6ft 7 inch forward was a fraction offside when he made the block (a marginal but ultimately correct call made by the TMO) and the try was disallowed. Even then England managed to get themselves back into the oppositions 22 but for some reason didn’t feed Owen Farrell or George Ford, who were primed for a drop goal attempt. New Zealand saw the clock out after yet another knock on and won a dramatic match by the smallest of margins. England will now know how the South Africans felt the previous week and New Zealand how the English did.
The All Blacks showed their experience to come back into and then see out the game, whereas England, whilst making great strides already this Autumn series, showed their inexperience and lack of match toughness. The non-existent leadership shown during the last moments when a drop goal was on, showed this and whilst Hartley and Farrell are joint captains, for me the Northampton Saints man influence on the team is huge. He was subbed for Jamie George at the break and the Saracens man had a half of forget, his lineout throws were poor and too many were lost at crucial times. Maybe this was the only error Eddie Jones made, making that change 10-20 minutes earlier than normal.
BUILD OR WHATS THE POINT
England would most certainly have taken the current situation at the start of this set of fixtures. A win and then a narrow defeat against the best team team in the world. Now they must build on this. At the start of these games, 2 wins was the minimum but with the performances they have produced they have to go on now and beat Japan and Australia in the next couple of weekends. The momentum now gained has to be kept up so they can then go into the Six Nations on a high and with confidence up, especially as they begin away in Dublin, before a home match against France, a team also in their World Cup Pool of Death. Wales away follows that, before Italy and Scotland visit Twickenham. Eddie Jones, knows there is a long way to go until England are where he wants and needs them in a World Cup year, but as things stand compared to earlier in 2018, things are at least looking much more positive and the job now is for that to continue. The last 2 weeks cannot just be a flash in the pan.
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