Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Battered, bruised and broken

England's tool-box housed a tourniquet, sledgehammer, fitness and belief as they bashed the All Blacks into their summer recess.

They never relented to deliver a victory that seemed possible but never by the 38-21 scoreline, which dazzled out of the scoreboard in the Twickenham gloom.

It was a limp end to a strong season for the All Blacks and while there was no murmur, the lack of sting from the start suggested illness which swept the team during the week had a severe impact.

The All Blacks did not play well for much of the match, nor were they allowed to by England.

Something seemed wrong. Illness perhaps, but there have been other signs this year at Christchurch and Brisbane, when the sleek engine misfired. Misdirected passes, strange and sloppy kicks, missed tackles, indiscipline - they were all there in growing numbers to indicate trouble.

For much of the test, England looked like they had not only grabbed the All Blacks manual, they had adopted the plays as well. They were upfront, on the march, powerful and concerted. There were few hints of their torrid recent results.

They were as relentless as the All Blacks were messy. Five-eighths Owen Farrell nudged over the penalties and dropped goal for a 12-0 led at the break and even though the All Blacks got within a point, they were blown away in eight purple minutes of red rose rugby.

Manu Tuilagi caused the damage with his support then crushing power to swat off three defenders before intercepting a Kieran Read pass and running 50m.

Wham, bam, thank you Ma'am. England were 32-14 ahead going into the final quarter.

They did not shut up shop and with a couple more penalties were threatening the All Blacks' worst defeat in their rich rugby history. A converted second try for Julian Savea and conversion averted that.

If the team wasn't affected by illness it was some message from England.

The formula to counter the All Blacks has always been apparent. Combat them up front, rough them up and disrupt their possession and those stutters will have a domino effect through the side.

England did that with and without the ball. They had a hunger that has not been apparent since the World Cup winning group from 2003. Can they reproduce and sustain it through the Six Nations?

Steve Hansen was adamant Carter was fully fit until he was subbed after 65 minutes. "There are no excuses, we got beaten by a better side and we will take it on the chin. This is a good England side," the coach said.

"I don't know that we played well but were we allowed to? That's the question. We had our go, we had 80 minutes to do our best and on this occasion we got beaten by a side that was better than us."

One for the records

* England's biggest win over New Zealand, surpassing the 13-0 victory at Twickenham in 1936.

* England's highest score against New Zealand, beating the 31 points in a 31-28 win at Twickenham in November 2002.

* New Zealand's second biggest defeat. Only once in 498 tests have they lost by a greater margin - 28-7 against Australia in August 1999.

* England's first win against New Zealand since a 15-13 success in Wellington in 2003, the year England won the World Cup.

* Before the match New Zealand had been unbeaten in 20 consecutive tests, a run including 19 wins and a draw.

* It was New Zealand's first defeat in an end-of-year international in Europe since the 31-28 loss to England at Twickenham in November 2002.

- NZ Herald

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