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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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An important World Cup dress rehearsal - Kayes

Getty Images

Jim Kayes     11 Nov 2018     Getty Images

Too often the result of Tests, especially those played by the All Blacks, is known before kick off with the only thing in doubt the scoreline.

Such was the case in the All Blacks previous two Tests in Japan, with comfortable wins against the hosts and Australia.

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All Blacks defeats are few and far between (and I’m not complaining about that) and tight tussles are rare too.

All of which made the 16-15 win against England at Twickenham so satisfying.

England played great rugby. They thoroughly deserved to lead 0-15 and will feel deeply aggrieved that they didn’t have what may have been the winning of the game when a try to Sam Underhill was ruled out because of an earlier offside at the ruck.

It was the correct call, but rare for it to be made so close to the ruck.
That shouldn’t matter though, offside is offside and England lived offside all afternoon. That’s not a criticism, it’s just the reality of how they closed the space on the All Blacks, shutting down Beauden Barrett’s attacking options and keeping them under pressure.

They also controlled the pace of the game, slowing it down by lagging between set pieces and stretching out the stoppages to ensure they kept pace with the All Blacks.

It was effective and almost produced what would have been a rare win.
But credit must go to the All Blacks and how they responded to England’s superb start.

Down 0-15 at the 25 minute mark, the All Blacks kept England scoreless for the rest of the match. That’s a mighty effort.

They did it by putting the boot away, keeping the ball in hand, and bringing the likes of Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Ardie Savea in the match.
Savea has really come of age in Sam Cane’s absence and his strength at the breakdown is massive. Equally, Read had his best Test for a long time and his decision to turn down an easy three points and take the scrum that led to Damian McKenzie’s try was courageous.

Whitelock was a real presence with the ball and Retallick was simply immense, not just with the ball but on defence and in the lineouts too.
If there’s a better lock in the game, I’ve not seen him. And if there is a better combination of locks internationally than those two then I’ve not spotted them either.

As England’s set piece fell away, the All Blacks gained momentum and slowly clawed their way back into the match.

McKenzie had his best Test at fullback in extremely testing conditions as it poured with rain in London, but he wasn’t alone at the back.
Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith did plenty of work in conditions that were never going to see them shine on attack.

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The trio got things horribly wrong to allow Chris Ashton far too much space for England’s opening try, but after that combined effectively to rebuff England’s kicking game.

Barrett was cramped by England’s defence and forced to kick too much but once he found some space the All Blacks ability to offload in tackles gave them much needed go-forward ball.

It was far from perfect but there was plenty in this thrilling Test that will satisfy the All Blacks.

They kept calm under scoreboard pressure and worked a plan to come back; their skills shone through on a murky, sodden afternoon; and their discipline was very good.

Barrett also kicked a drop goal!

And they won.

There was, perhaps, more relief than exhilaration when the whistle blew to confirm the victory, but if this tour is a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup then that result is hugely important.

And now for Ireland, and another impossible to predict Test.