New Zealand clinched a series whitewash over England with a comprehensive 36-13 win in the third and final Test match at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
England headed into the third and final test chasing that all important victory. Media and pundits before the match were asking if the gap between the rest of the world and the All Blacks had narrowed and while the first two Test suggested that this was the case, the All Black performance in Hamilton showed that they remain firmly at the helm of world rugby.
It took just three minutes for the All Blacks to score their first try. Full back, Mike Brown, took a Ma'a Nonu kick back in to his own twenty-two and kicked straight in to touch.
From the resulting line-out New Zealand utilized a driving maul. Aaron Smith exploited a huge gap in the England midfield, distributed to outstanding winger, Julian Savea, who cantered over to make the score 5-0. Cruden kicked the extras to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
Freddie Burns then put England on the score board with a penalty. 7-3.
England poor in the first half
A poor England restart then gifted the All Blacks the ball. Smith and Cruden combined again and found the ever present gap in England's midfield.
Savea brilliantly gathered a long pass out wide, side stepping the England defence to put the All Blacks 12-3 up after ten minutes.
Cruden then kicked a penalty to touch. Another effective driving maul from the resulting set-piece set up a neat backs move and Savea was in to score again, only for the try to be disallowed because of a forward pass.
Burns and Cruden traded penalties, to leave the score, 15-6 after eighteen minutes.
Things then went from bad to worse for England. Number eight, Billy Vunipola, was yellow carded for a high tackle on Aaron Smith, leaving England down to fourteen men and behind on the score board.
New Zealand possession
Constant New Zealand posession led to them distributing the ball out wide, Marland Yarde missing another tackle on winger, Cory Jane. Jane then found Aaron Smith on the inside to score. Cruden kicked slotted the conversion making it 22-6.
A routine line-out led to Ben Smith making an incisive break with Aaron Smith on hand to support and score again. Cruden kicked New Zealand in to a 29-6 half-time lead.
New Zealand showed why they are the best in the world. They controlled the game and their set piece and forward play was faultless, providing the attacking platform for Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden to boss the game.
Some sublime decision making brought powerful ball carriers Ben Smith, Cory Jane and Malakai Fekitoa in to the game. They punctured the England defence time after time. Four tries could have been six.
For all New Zealand's brilliance, England were far from blameless.
Defensively they fell off tackles, their handling skills were poor and at the set piece they were being destroyed. The entire team were poor and England were put in their place.
Stuart Lancaster's team needed a more composed response in the second period id they wanted to avoid complete embarrassment.
Right after the break that response came with Ben Youngs increasing the tempo of their game, snapping around the fringes and giving them some forward momentum.
The forwards won fast ball and Youngs brought strike runners Vunipola and Manu Tuilagi in to the game. This allowed phases of play to be put together, culminating in a Yarde try.
Burns kicked the conversion to make it 29 13 after forty-two minutes.
Yarde was then held up three minutes later, England seemingly turning the tide.
Substitutions for both sides disrupted the rhythm of the game, while it appeared New Zealand had taken their foot off the pedal.
Psychologically when you dominate a half as the All Blacks did and build a lead of 23 points, subconsciously your mind thinks, the game is won. You don't mean to let your performance drop but it does.
England better in the second half
The All Blacks intensity dropping off combined, with England increasing their performance led to a vastly improved half for England. Yarde on seventy minutes again nearly scored, only to be denied following excellent defence from Savea.
Marland Yarde may have missed a tackle and been poor defensively in the first half. But in the second half he was a threat. His pace, power and aggression will be a huge weapon for England in the future.
England led the half 7-0 but did not deserve to win the half. It was fitting that New Zealand ended the game as they started it, scoring a try.
Imposing winger, Cory Jane, made a break and offloaded to Savea who completed his hat-trick.
New Zealand's wingers are big, physical specimens. They play almost like centres, following the ball and getting involved in play when ever they can.
Beauden Barret who replaced the classy Cruden, kicked the conversion and the final score was 36-13, to give New Zealand a record equalling seventeenth successive test match victory.
The All Blacks were almost perfect in the first half. At set piece, in defense and offense they were sublime. Four tries should have been more. Tony Woodcock, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Smith, Cory Jane and Julian Savea all stood out.
England though, improved massively in the second half. They raised their intensity and performance level. And drew the second half 7-7. Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Yarde particularly excelled.
New Zealand are still the best and on a different level to everyone else. Surely they are favorites to retain their World Cup crown in England in 2015.
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