Wynne Gray: ABs beaten at their own game

For the first time this season the All Blacks felt the cold fear of failure.

Worse still they were beaten at their own game by an England side whose name may come out of tomorrow's World Cup draw in the same pool for the 2015 tournament.

It was a result which has turned a strong season into one with some doubts as England put a hammerlock on the All Blacks progress and never relented.

The hosts were shaken at Twickenham as the All Blacks got within a point 10 minutes into the second half but England then, rather than the visitors, raised the tempo and the pressure.

They squeezed with their big men taking the venom out of the All Blacks so much they made several decisive defensive blunders.

Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi messed with Conrad Smith and Cory Jane enough on defence to give Barritt room to bash to the line before Tuilagi was at it again.

He ploughed past Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Aaron Smith to give Chris Ashton a gift run to the line.

The All Black pain continued as they pressed and Tuilagi grabbed Read's pass and careered 50m downfield to the tryline.

The tries were shared three apiece but it was a strong performance from England and one that has shown the rugby world how to beat the All Blacks.

The visitors were not quite in the zone. They were a metre off the pace in most areas, passes went astray, Carter missed early kicks, tackles were missed they lost out in some breakdowns.

It wasn't a mountain at halftime but it was a hell of a hill the All Blacks had to climb if they were to maintain their unbeaten record this season.

They had been shut out of the test for long periods as England used the power of their pack and the weight of possession to keep the pressure on the visitors.

And when the All Blacks had rare bits of useful possession they were hesitant or made mistakes. This was the sort of inquisition they had been warned about and England delivered.

They were direct, rugged and bludgeoning. They drove their lineout ball and showed a taut scrum which sapped much of the All Blacks vigour.

Most teams know if they can cut off or test the All Blacks' supply of possession, they have a much better chance to beat them.

It helps when the All Blacks do not play well but they were not allowed to. They were harried and bustled, they were hit and stopped on the advantage line, and showed some of the uncertainty which ad rarely appeared this season.

England began by flipping the ball across the Twikenham turf but then resorted to patterns which involved more kicking and close runners to batter their rivals and take away some of their sting.

It was not pretty but so what England would argue. Test rugby was about winning, not how but by how much.

No one would remember if they had played frilly or jackhammer rugby, the outcome was the only thing that mattered.

Halftime was a pivotal moment. How would Steve Hansen and Stuart Lancaster address their troops and what response would they invoke?

This encounter would define 2012 for both teams. The All Blacks were defending an unbeaten sequence and refreshing style while England were searching for some elixir after bleak weekends against the Wallabies and Springboks.

- NZ Herald

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