Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

First take: New look England so close to upset

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Brodie Retallick of the All Blacks loses the ball past Joe Launchbury of England. Photo / Getty Images
Brodie Retallick of the All Blacks loses the ball past Joe Launchbury of England. Photo / Getty Images

This was England but not as we knew them. This was England as they were two years ago in their first duel against the All Blacks under coach Stuart Lancaster's command.

They were combative, calculated, inventive and enduring. This was their chance to bewilder the All Blacks and give Lancaster a fresh stack of selection problems for the second test in Dunedin.

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One piece of attempted magic said it all about England's new rugby order.

As the ball was swept towards the sideline, flanker James Haskell continued the adventure, whipped the ball between his legs to waiting wing Jonny May who sped off downfield. The transfer was a shade forward but it spoke of England's confidence and intent.

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They were here to play, to challenge and create apprehension within the All Black ranks. It worked for the first half as the sides hit the break at 9-all.

There was nothing in this scrap.

The interlude would tell whose minds were strongest for this dogfight. The All Blacks had survived many similar scraps last season and England were bubbling nicely. Who had the bottle for the mind-bending last spell?

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Several tko attempts came to nothing in the third quarter, Jerome Kaino knocked on as he sniffed the line, May was tipped up on a long foray.

England got the vital jump with another Burns penalty and then had to survive 16 minutes. Whatever happened they had earned the admiration of the 47,195 crowd.

It turned to mush but England sent a flood of jitters through the All Blacks, they messed with their minds, they definitely put the "test" back into international rugby.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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