Dan Carter put the sword to England as the visitors scored a record 41-20 win at Twickenham.
Carter scored 26 points, showed his human side with a charge down and two missed kicks but on the day showed enough genius to condemn England to a sixth successive defeat. It was also the All Blacks fourth successive win against England.
The All Blacks scored four tries to three, but their superiority was reflected in the final score as opposed to the try tally. Both sides would argue they could have scored more points with more accuracy in the finish. What no one will argue is the 21 point differential. To beat England at Twickenham by 21 points is huge. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Still it was not a complete performance from the Kiwis, who again lost a player to the sin-bin when Chris Masoe was marched in the 65th minute. One wonders if we will ever see the perfect 80 minutes from these guys, more so when they can win games with just 20 sublime minutes and with little more than 40 percent of the ball.
The All Blacks counter-attacking ability is currently without comparison in the world game and Carl Hayman’s try to close out the first half was as sublime a team effort as you will see. Joe Rokocoko started it and Hayman was one of three waiting to finish it 70 metres down field.
England tried desperately hard to attack the All Blacks and they played with width that did trouble the All Blacks defence. But the hosts lacked the precision in passing or decision-making to consistently apply the pressure. Jamie Noon got a good try and should have had one in the first five minutes when a controversial TMO ruling denied England the game’s opening try. For the hosts it was an ominous sign as the All Blacks, through Carter, got points on the board and then built momentum to lead 28-5 at halftime.
Few teams lose with a 23 point halftime advantage. The All Blacks never lose with a halftime lead, let alone 23 points.
The All Blacks pack has become the strength of this team and Carter operates behind the best pack in the business. Whether it is Rueben Thorne or Jerry Collins at No 6, Masoe or Rodney So’oialo at No 8 among the loose-forwards, the All Blacks have added solidity to the flash of the outside backs. In lock Keith Robinson they also welcomed back the grunt to go with the athleticism of Chris Jack.
Captain Richie McCaw was again monumental in slowing down opposition ball and winning crucial turnovers, but don’t underestimate the performance of Masoe at the breakdown or in contact. The two were very good when played in this combination against the Springboks at Loftus and perhaps this is the best New Zealand loose-forward combination against the heavier and more physical packs like England and South Africa.
England promised pre-match to be positive in their approach and they matched this talk. The execution, though, lacked conviction and not even a home crowd in excess of 80 000 could grow them that extra arm and leg needed to counter the All Blacks.
Rucking and counter rucking are influential aspects of any game played up north. We saw it with Martyn Williams in Wales’s 29-all draw against the Wallabies and we again witnessed this aspect of forward play with McCaw, Lewis Moody and Masoe. New Zealand were superior and despite having only 30 percent of the ball and territory for the opening 20 minutes of the second half, the ball England invariably won was made for pedestrians and not athletes running from depth.
Noon was the best of the English backs, Martin Corry and Moody were heroic for England, but the All Blacks as a team prospered.
Carter won the man of the match award and will grab the headlines, but he knows his era has come packaged with an All Blacks coaching staff that believes in forward play and in the basics of the game.
The more the forwards put their heads down and go, the greater Carter’s influence. The flyhalf is the game’s best conductor, but he does lead the most imposing orchestra in the Woodocks, Haymans and company.
Tries – Jamie Noon (30th min), Ben Cohen (45th min), Shaun Perry (59th min)
Convs – Charlie Hodgson (45th min)
Pens – Hodgson (65th min)
Tries – Aaron Mauger 22nd min), Joe Rokocoko (38th min), Carl Hayman (40th min), Dan Carter (55th min)
Convs – Carter (23rd min, 39th min, 56th min)
Pens – Carter (3 mins, 13 mins, 37 mins, 67 mins, 73rd min)
Kick-off: 17.30 (SA Time)