Sweet All Blacks win

By Gregor Paul in Dunedin

All Blacks celebrate Julian Savea's try against England, during the 2nd test match of the Steinlager Series between the All Blacks and England. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
All Blacks celebrate Julian Savea's try against England, during the 2nd test match of the Steinlager Series between the All Blacks and England. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

NEW ZEALAND 28
ENGLAND 27

Victory isn't supposed to have different flavours, but there is no doubt that tonight's victory in Dunedin tasted so much sweeter than the one in Auckland.

Just as curiously the margin of victory was just one point and yet it never felt like victory was in danger - that England were going to snatch it. This game was in the bag 10 minutes before the end and while the All Blacks won't be happy they allowed England to score the last 14 points, they know they were a fair way better. They know that England will also know the All Blacks were a fair bit better.

First Take: Tuilagi fails to shine

The All Blacks wanted 30 per cent more last night. They got it. They wanted to fix their pass and catch and they did. They wanted a better scrum. Got that, too and with a near perfect lineout performance they looked reassuringly like the All Blacks again.

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They looked far from being a spent force, but rather a towering force who wobbled and shook a bit in the early exchanges before cranking the pressure and upping the tempo to leave England gasping.

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And they were gasping.

They talked all week about their desire and ability to play a fast game, but when they got one, they didn't cope overly well. They were a bit shell-shocked in the second half after an impressive first - but that's what happens when oxygen debt is a factor. They are a good, good side England - just not ready to play as wide and as fast as the All Blacks.

After some more serious physical exchanges, the game finally opened up in the second half. It was fast and compelling and the All Blacks dominated.

Funny what a week extra together can do. It can make the All Blacks look like world leaders again and England with a bigger mountain to climb than perhaps even they realised.

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The All Blacks swamped them and left them scrambling with the way they ran from deep, fed out the tackle and used the width. They had greater numbers to the breakdown, could recycle and then had options on either side of the ball carrier.

They won't be happy with all of their work. They left some points out there, lacking at times the polish and cohesion required to finish some of the less obvious opportunities.

That will come and the important thing for the All Blacks was that, collectively, they were a massive step up from last week.

All the bits that needed to be fixed were. First and foremost, that meant the basic business of pass and catch that proved horribly beyond the All Blacks at Eden Park.

They killed the worst of it but not all of it. Mostly it was neat and just about slick enough. But not always. There was coach-killing stuff in the first half from Cory Jane who had a difficult night with his handling all up.

He'll be be most annoyed at the way he lifted his head with a two-man overlap and dropped a perfect pass that had seven points written all over it.

It still had seven points written all over it as it fell into the arms of Manu Tuilagi who took off and would have scored had it not been for Ben Smith, who was sensational at fullback.

Smith was truly brilliant in the way he ran, passed, chose his options and, in that one play caught the escaping Tuilagi, scrambled to his feet, counter-rucked and won the ball and set off the next All Black attack.

Julian Savea was almost as impressive in the way he took the game to England and his presence on the left wing is becoming a key part of the All Blacks' weaponry.

New Zealand 28 (B. Smith, J. Savea, M. Nonu tries; A. Cruden con, 2 pens; B. Barrett pen, con) England 27 (M. Yarde, M. Brown, C. Ashton tries; O. Farrell 3 cons, 2 pens). Halftime: 6-10.

- Herald on Sunday

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