All Blacks hold on for 16-15 comeback win over England
LONDON (AP) — Although a video review denied his side a statement victory over New Zealand, England’s performance — and lack of fortune — left Eddie Jones full of optimism less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks survived a late scare to hold on for a 16-15 comeback victory at Twickenham on Saturday in a first matchup with England in four years.
England thought it secured a rare victory over the world champion when Sam Underhill touched down five minutes from fulltime, but video review revealed Courtney Lawes was offside when he made a chargedown to launch the move.
“Sometimes the game loves you and sometimes the game doesn’t love you,” Jones said, “You’ve got to accept that if you stay in the fight long enough the game will love you. We’re prepared to stay in the fight so we’ll get some luck from the game further down the track, don’t worry.”
England made a dream start as Chris Ashton and co-captain Dylan Hartley scored tries either side of an Owen Farrell dropped goal for 15-0 after 24 minutes.
New Zealand struck back through fullback Damian McKenzie near halftime, then a kickoff error from Farrell allowed the All Blacks to close the deficit to five points at the break.
Beauden Barrett’s dropped goal and penalty put the All Blacks ahead on the hour mark, setting up a dramatic finale in the rain.
The All Blacks celebrated a sixth straight win against England, and inflicted just the second home defeat of Jones’ three-season tenure.
“We’re obviously devastated,” Jones said. “But you take the good with the bad and we learned a lot.”
There was plenty of good early on as Ashton, making his first start in four years, repaid Jones’ faith with a second-minute try.
England’s backs swung left, taking the All Black defense with them as Ashton held his position on the right wing. The alert Ben Youngs spotted him and sent a long pass for the wing to become the first England player to score three tries against New Zealand.
Farrell missed the conversion, but brought up his 700th England point soon after.
An overthrown All Blacks lineout allowed England to attack, and Youngs found Farrell for a dropped goal after 10 minutes.
New Zealand continued to make errors and England, enjoying momentum, chose to kick a penalty to the corner than at the posts. Itoje made the lineout catch, England drove, and Hartley’s try made the All Blacks look completely helpless.
Farrell’s conversion made it 15-0 and the All Blacks were unnerved. Barrett, up for a third world player of the year award, was making sloppy kicks.
New Zealand’s resolve was tested further when center Sonny Bill Williams was forced off with a shoulder injury a half hour in. Yet, they found their groove.
“We had to roll our sleeves up,” lock Brodie Retallick said. “The conditions didn’t allow us to play exactly how we wanted to and I think we finally did that.”
McKenzie, who had been the All Blacks’ biggest threat, ran a smart angle on the inside of Barrett and scored, setting up an easy conversion with halftime near.
Farrell kicked the restart straight into touch, and the All Blacks used the last chance to attack and earn a penalty in front of the posts. Barrett obliged, and while 15-10 behind, New Zealand carried momentum into the second half.
The All Blacks missed a try when a McKenzie break was wasted by Aaron Smith, but Barrett produced a dropped goal for 15-13.
England came close to responding immediately as it tried another attacking lineout rather than a penalty kick but prop Kyle Sinckler spilled the ball.
“We score points there we win the game,” Jones said.
Another bad throw-in by Jamie George wasted another England chance, but Barrett made no mistake with a penalty kick to put the All Blacks ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
New Zealand looked like accelerating in the rain as more errors crept into England’s play, but roared on by the 80,000-strong crowd, the home side rallied impressively.
“I thought we played the final 20 exceptionally well,” Jones said. “That’s where New Zealand generally run away from teams in that area and they couldn’t break us.”
Lawes charged down replacement scrumhalf TJ Perenara, and Underhill twisted Barrett to score in the left corner. But on TMO advice, referee Jerome Garces made the call against Lawes, who was in front of the last foot at a ruck.
“There’s no doubt he’s offside,” Hansen said. “He’s just about in the half-back’s back pocket. What was going through my mind was, ‘Are they going to be brave enough to make the right decision?’ And they were, so that was good.”