Discipline, patience provide All Blacks with win
Lynn McConnell 07 Jun 2014 Getty Images
Their discipline was evident to the maximum before they scored the only try to claim their 20-15 first Steinlager Test win over England at Eden Park on Saturday night.
England, who will claim some confidence after pushing the world champions so close, had cause to regret wing Marland Yardy's infraction at a ruck after a storming break by lock Brodie Retallick when making the most of a dropped ball by England's halfback Danny Care
Yardy was sin-binned for his trouble and New Zealand's first five-eighths Aaron Cruden landed his fifth penalty goal of the game to give the All Blacks the lead for the first time.
And six minutes later reduced England numbers couldn't halt the All Blacks waves as they conceded a try when centre Conrad Smith got over on the blindside for the only try of the game - the result of some match-winning quick thinking by first five-eighth Aaron Cruden in his choice of a tap kick from a penalty.
But it is hard to escape the value of the control the All Blacks showed. It got them out of trouble in their last game against England at Twickenham last year, and it helped them score after the final hooter to beat Ireland to claim their unbeaten season in 2013.
While England, down on numbers, will know they can do better in the second Test in Dunedin next week, they should also remember the All Blacks have been given some powerful ammunition to lift their preparation during the week.
Another contributing factor in England's demise was the unfamiliarity of their tight forwards with ball-handling of the nature that is so much a part of the All Blacks game. Confidence in that department is not quickly learned and it let England down.
The All Blacks had their own handling woes, though not as many as the visitors, and the drier atmosphere of Dunedin's Stadium may help reduce the errors that bedevilled both sides.
The other concern for England is that they will be introducing new players, a new combination, while the All Blacks will have the benefit of an extra game together.
On Saturday's demonstration, they needed it. While the usual control, fluidity and precision handling was missing from their game, it was of concern that extra dimensions came into consideration.
The incident, just after half-time, when a superbly-weighted kick from halfback Aaron Smith had England floundering on their own line, hooker Dane Coles took an Englishman out of play, immediately conceding a penalty, when New Zealand had the cavalry at hand to mount a prospective try-scoring chance.
There was another in the third quarter, when a clever kick from Smith took play from halfway to the goal-line after a blindside move with No.8 Jerome Kaino. But with the English floundering, Kaino bent low to scoop the ball only to knock it on.
His hard-working and impressive opposite Ben Morgan then charged off the resulting scrum on his own blindside break that created a chance for England at the other end, but big hooker Rob Webber couldn't hold the ball with the All Blacks stretched.
In the first half New Zealand played like a team that hadn't had a game in six months, understandably, while England looked equally as uncertain with their untried combinations. Errors of fluidity hampered both sides and while there were try-scoring chances for both it was symptomatic that none were taken.
England's best chance came courtesy of a charge down achieved by Brodie Retallick. England recovered the ball and took play close to the All Blacks line, but the ramparts held. With the half-time siren having sounded it was left to Freddie Burns to attempt to salvage a dropped goal. It was symptomatic of the night that it missed.
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