New Zealand needed a late try to secure a close 20-15 victory over a depleted but courageous England at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday in the first of three Tests.
England were forced to field a second string team for the match as the Premiership final was contested between Saracens and Northampton Saints last week which made all players from those teams unavailable for the opening test.
Conrad Smith scored a try with two minutes remaining when England were reduced to 14 players after Marlande Yarde had been yellow carded. Despite the loss England will take great confidence from the result as it illustrates the strength in the depth of the squad by pushing the All Blacks to the edge.
The result extends the All Blacks unbeaten record at Eden Park to 32 matches over 20 years as their last loss at the venue was in July 1994. The match had looked to be headed for a draw after Aaron Cruden and Danny Cipriani kicked penalties in the final quarter to level the scores.
All Black Cruden finished with 15 points from the match as he missed the conversion of Smith’s try. England’s Freddie Burns kicked four penalties in the match and Danny Cipriani levelled the scores after Cruden had edged the home side ahead.
England, who led for much of the match, took an early lead after they were awarded a penalty for Ma’a Nonu tackling James Haskell without the ball in the second minute. Nonu was fortunate not to be yellow carded for the incident. The deciding moment came after Marland Yarde had been yellow carded for not releasing Brodie Retalick and the All Blacks chose to run the ball instead of kicking for posts.
The All Blacks used the advantage of the extra man to get the ball to England’s tryline and after being ruled short initially by the TMO they eventually smuggled the ball wide out to Conrad Smith for the match winning try. The All Black scrum was under severe pressure for most of the match but gained some parity in the final stages when Keven Mealamu and Wyatt Crockett replaced Tony Woodcock and Dane Coles.
Final Score New Zealand 20 (9) England 15 (9)
Tries – C.Smith
Pen -Cruden (5)
Pen – Burns (4)