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Underwhelming All Blacks win first test

Showing level heads and staunch defence, the All Blacks earned a 16-15 first test win over England in Dunedin.

Wing Sevu Reece and No 8 Ardie Savea scored first-half tries as the All Blacks ensured new head coach Scott Robertson's tenure got off to a winning start at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.


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England seized on All Blacks' first-five Damian McKenzie being timed out of a penalty goal attempt a minute from the end of the game.

They looked to move the ball, and it was unfortunate that one of their players of the day, fullback George Furbank, was penalised for holding on too long in the tackle, and the All Blacks put the ball out to secure a win that bore all the hallmarks of a first test of the season.

The one-point margin repeated that of the 28-27 result when the two sides last played in Dunedin in 2014.

There was hesitancy, lack of coordination and frustration in being unable to piece together the continuity that can only be played with quick possession.

England tried their methods to move the ball similarly, but in the end, the All Blacks' power game paid off when using their big forwards, led superbly by captain and lock Scott Barrett, his locking partners Patrick Tuipulotu and replacement Tupou Vaa'i, starting props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax and their substitutes Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Fletcher Newell.

It was that sort of game, and the All Blacks could take satisfaction in winning when having to graft to make ground. They launched a barrage of kicks downfield, where Reece applied outstanding pressure on the chase.

Early scrum exchanges were muddled; the All Blacks showed power in one scrum to win a penalty, while England secured a penalty and a free kick from two of theirs, first=five Marcus Smith missing with a comfortable penalty goal chance from the first.

Sevu Reece All Blacks rugby
Sevu Reece returned to test rugby with a try in the 15th minute. PHOTO: NZ RUGBY/ACTION PRESS

Seeing off the pressure from early England, the All Blacks struck after Tuipulotu capped good work with wing Mark Tele'a and fullback Stephen Perofeta, who had two strong runs - the second produced quick ball for McKenzie to put a crosskick to Reece's wing, who crossed in the 15th minute to mark his return to test play with the first try.

England moved the ball once, getting into the 22m area where McKenzie was trapped in the corner and from the lineout blindside, flanker Chandler Cunningham-South was brought down just short of the line, but lock Maro Itoje was in support to pick up and drive over in the 20th minute.

Almost immediately, the All Blacks drove into England's half, and as a ruck developed just outside their 22m area, the ball was cleared to Perofeta, playing at standoff. He shimmied past the defence, sped through and fed Savea over for the 24th-minute try.

Both sides looked to move the ball at speed, but both defences held, and just before halftime, the All Blacks looked to break out of their half.

However, the English defence was unrelenting, and eventually, a penalty was conceded, and Smith made no mistake this time.

Starting the second half, England gained the early momentum through their big man battering the All Blacks line, with Cunningham-South, lock George Martin and flanker Sam Underhill making good carries before the ball was spread wide with Smith finding wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso who scored out wide in the 47th minute.

McKenzie's two penalty goals made the most of the opportunities, while England rued Smith's two misses, which should have been converted.

The All Blacks will go into the second test at Auckland's Eden Park next week knowing they have much room to improve. The question is whether England can lift themselves beyond what they left in Dunedin in their final game of the season.

New Zealand 16 (Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea tries; Damian McKenzie 2 pen) England 15 (Chandler Cunningham-South, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso tries; Marcus Smith con, pen). HT: 10-10


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