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All Blacks escape with win against England

Or as England coach Eddie Jones put it in the build up, “We want to direct the movie, not just be in it.”

For 60 minutes England were in the directors’ chair courtesy of tries from Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley, and but for a disallowed try at the end may well have pulled it off.

Jones’ men were muscular, fired up, and precise. The thunderous noise at Twickenham told you this was special. And they came so close.

But New Zealand showed the poise and patience that has made them double world champions to escape with a 16-15 victory under the leaden skies of southwest London.

With the World Cup less than a year away it was a significant result for both sides.

For New Zealand, further cementing of its reputation as one of sport’s most dominant winning machines, and proof perhaps that the recent defeat against South Africa was a blip.

For England, shorn of a raft of key players through injury, another step in the right direction following last week’s win against South Africa in the wake of a disappointing year.

“Sometimes the game loves you, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Jones, whose side got away with a controversial late decision which could have cost them the win against the Springboks.

“We really stuck it to them. It’s a really good step forward because you benchmark yourself against New Zealand.”

The All Blacks hadn’t been to the home of English rugby for four years, but like the opening chords of a long-awaited Rolling Stones tour, the hair-raising haka told you they were back.

Not that you could hear the warrior’s chants, such was the deafening rendition of “Swing low, sweet chariot,” English rugby’s anthem.

The New Zealand All Blacks perform the haka ahead of the game against England at Twickenham.The New Zealand All Blacks perform the haka ahead of the game against England at Twickenham.

The match-up was also billed as a clash of styles. The All Blacks’ electric, attacking rugby — yielding an average of four tries in its last 12 games — against England’s tighter, more forward oriented game.

From the outset, England met the Kiwi rapier with a cutlass and a cudgel.

A flowing early move sent winger Ashton — also back for the first time in four years — over in the right corner.

As if on cue, the stadium PA pumped out the Stones’ Start Me Up, and it was clear England had picked up the gauntlet of the All Blacks’ haka and run with it.

A second try following a ferocious forward surge off a line out to put co-captain Hartley over proved the point.

England wing Chris Ashton scored the opening try against New Zealand at Twickenham.England wing Chris Ashton scored the opening try against New Zealand at Twickenham.
England push over Dylan Hartley to score against New Zealand.England push over Dylan Hartley to score against New Zealand.

But like a wily hunter stalking its prey, New Zealand remained patient, stalking, prodding and probing.

And when the opportunity presented itself the men in black struck with clinical precision.

Slick handling put full back Damian McKenzie under England’s posts. Beauden Barrett added the conversion and a penalty shortly after to go in to the break 15-10 down but on the up.

The All Blacks’ engine was purring again after half time, only for a rare dropped pass to scupper a certain try.

England had a near miss of its own, but despite hammering away near the Kiwi line it couldn’t quite find a way through.

As Jones admitted, those are the chances you must take against the All Blacks, because when Barrett slotted a drop-goal and then another penalty on the hour mark, New Zealand were in front.

Part of the All Blacks’ magic is its ability to snuff out the opposition in the last quarter, but England hung on tight.

“New Zealand generally run away from teams in those areas but they couldn’t,” said Jones.

When flanker Sam Underhill turned Barrett inside out and looked to have scored off a charge down with five minutes left, the majority of the 80,000 crowd erupted with roars that reverberated down the nearby River Thames.

But the referee opted for a TV review and England lock Courtney Lawes was adjudged marginally offside in charging down the kick.

The All Blacks had escaped, while England were “devastated” but encouraged.

“I tell you, we’re excited about where we’re going,” said Jones.

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