Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks sparkle in win

All Blacks player Aaron Smith breaks free from England players to score during the test match between the All Blacks and England played at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton tonight. Photo / Alan Gibson.
All Blacks player Aaron Smith breaks free from England players to score during the test match between the All Blacks and England played at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton tonight. Photo / Alan Gibson.

All Blacks 36
England 13

Not a bad piece of this machinery this All Black side when they are well oiled and able to work through the gears in the face of passive resistance.

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And that Julian Savea goes particularly OK. The All Blacks could probably have sent him out on his own and got pretty much the same result.

His third try - the last act of the game - provided the gloss the scoreboard needed to demonstrate the true gulf between the teams.

If the All Blacks are old, slow and over the hill... goodness knows what that makes England who were well beaten.

First Take: Cruden silences his doubters

It could, and should have ended up as an old-fashioned donkey-licking, but a combination of All Black sloppiness and an English revival prevented that.

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The temptation will be to over-analyse the last half hour and question what went wrong, rather than drill into the opening 30 minutes and celebrate what went right.

And plenty went right in that early period - plenty to be convinced by the direction in which the All Blacks are heading.

What will worry England, and what should worry every aspiring international side, is the muscularity and excellence of the All Blacks pack. England came here with a reasonable expectation that, while they might not be able to match the pace and verve of the All Blacks backs, they would at least smack them around a bit up front.

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That didn't happen last night - hasn't happened all series. The All Black lineout hummed along, their scrum was rock solid - encountering more opposition from the referee than it did anything wearing white.


View: Gallery - All Blacks v England

They defended England's driving maul to within an inch of its life and got their own one going rather well. And the cleanout was vicious, their defence equally so, and England's big men were sat down. Hard. Time and time again.

That's what they will worry about. They sure as goodness know they can't run around the All Blacks or take the legs off them, but they fancied three weeks ago they could run over the top of them.

It's time for a massive rethink on that one and the calculations will have to factor in that the All Blacks are running around with veritable babies in their tight five. Give Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick another year...

Give the whole pack another year and they will be doing untold damage to whoever they fancy. They have been the unexpected story of the series, the men who have come of age and set the All Blacks up for a good season.

But what about that second half? Despite the relative comfort of their victory and obvious areas of excellence, they still won't be happy with their work.

On a night when the All Blacks picked up a clean sweep and equalled the world record of consecutive victories, it doesn't seem right to be quibbling, but they squandered points in the first half when England were crying out to be put away. Savea, so brilliant otherwise, didn't hold his depth when he was free to score what would have been a hat-trick in 13 minutes.

It's best not to get too worked up about it. That's often the nature of games that are all-but done and dusted in the first half hour.

Maybe give England some credit for finding some late resolve. And that may be the only thing they can take from this tour.

All the usual things can be said in their defence - long season, long tour, a few injuries and who really fancies test football on a wet Saturday night in Hamilton? But they came to New Zealand to win the series, came to win all three tests and make a statement ahead of the World Cup - which they kind of did.

They let the cat out of the bag that they are a long way from being the team they want to be - the team they need to be.

New Zealand 36 (J. Savea 3, A. Smith 2 tries; A. Cruden 3 cons, pen; B. Barrett con) England 13 (M. Yarde try; F. Burns 2 pens; D. Cipriani con)
. HT: 29-6.

- Herald on Sunday

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