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Streetwise New Zealand grind out victory over England

England, playing their first game since losing to the All Blacks in June, led 14-11 at the break after a scintillating Jonny May try but came to rue missed opportunities in a one-sided second half.


As rain saturated the ground, the world champions showed fantastic composure and discipline, perfectly encapsulated by the sustained 22-phase forward-dominated drive that led to their all-important third try by Charlie Faumuina.

It was an impressive turnaround by the All Blacks, who have now won 32 of the teams’ 40 meetings, including five victories in the last 13 months, and lost only two matches since their World Cup triumph three years ago.

For England, it was a frustrating start to a November series when they are hoping to put down a marker ahead of next year’s World Cup.

They got the perfect start when May, often criticised for his lateral movement, showed the raw pace that has been shredding Premiership defences for three years to leave Israel Dagg clutching air as he streaked past him for his first international try four minutes into the game.

If Mike Brown had held on to a fizzing Kyle Eastmond pass soon after, England would have had a second score but instead it was New Zealand who struck in their first attack of the match after 14 minutes when Aaron Cruden stretched for the line after Jerome Kaino had blasted through some weak tackling.

It was a shock to England, who had been on top in every area until then, but they recovered well and edged 11-5 ahead with two Owen Farrell penalties.

Cruden levelled with two of his own before a third for Farrell took England to the changing rooms 14-11 ahead but probably frustrated it was not a bigger lead.

That frustration was doubled six minutes after the restart when some crisp midfield passing opened a hole that enabled Richie McCaw to walk in his team’s second try.

The All Blacks were camped in the England half, with the home side struggling to build any sort of attack, and even when their hooker Dane Coles was sin-binned for kicking Chris Robshaw they continued to dominate.

Replacement flyhalf Beauden Barrett missed a sitter of a penalty with 15 minutes remaining but a great break by Sonny Bill Williams set him up for an even easier shot soon after.

As pouring rain made handling difficult, New Zealand showed all their experience to change their approach and make progress through the forwards.

Relentless pick and go charges ended with Faumuina forcing his way over to open a 10-point lead that never looked like being overturned.

England finally rallied in the closing minutes, securing a penalty try after endless All Black penalties, but it was about their only sustained period of pressure in the second half and they can have no complaints about the result.

(Editing by Rex Gowar)