England were pegged back by New Zealand as they missed the opportunity to secure a famous victory at Twickenham
Eddie Jones’ men led 15-0 after a fine start but found themselves 16-15 down before a controversial late offside call denied Sam Underhill a match-winning try.
England dominated the opening exchanges and had built a deserved 8-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes.
Strong carries from Sam Underhill, Kyle Sinckler and Maro Itoje sucked in defenders and when Ben Youngs spotted an unmarked Chris Ashton stationed on the touchline he sent the Sale wing sliding over with a floated pass.
They piled on more pressure almost immediately, extending their lead through a drop goal from Owen Farrell.
And with 25 minutes on the clock, the hosts were 15 points to the good.
A line-out 15 metres out developed into a maul which the All Blacks could not counter, and New Zealand-born Dylan Hartley, the co-captain, touched down for England’s second try, which Farrell converted.
New Zealand, who lost influential centre Sonny Bill Williams to a groin injury, finally entered England’s 22 and Underhill conceded a penalty for offside.
The All Blacks opted for a scrum and the decision paid off when McKenzie darted in for a try which was converted by Beauden Barrett.
England encroached offside once more, gifting Barrett three more points as the hosts’ half-time advantage was reduced to five points. A drop goal from the prolific Barrett – the first of his 71-cap career – cut the deficit further.
England answered, but Youngs was stopped short of the try-line and Sinckler knocked on to relieve the pressure.
Barrett kicked a penalty, punishing Brad Shields’ indiscretion, for the All Blacks to take the lead for the first time with 20 minutes to go.
With five minutes remaining, England thought they had a winner, but Sam Underhill’s try was ruled out for an offside call on Courtney Lawes after checks with the video official.
It was tight, but such are the margins at the elite level.
Here are five talking points from HQ…
1. The splash is back
Jones predicted it would happen for Ashton and it did, after just two minutes at Twickenham.
Ashton was making his first England start in four years and Jones sensed he would relish the occasion.
Before this afternoon’s match, Jones said: "I think playing against New Zealand suits him – it’s just a gut feeling. He can sniff a try."
And sniff it he did, collecting a Ben Youngs pass and setting his sights on the corner. He just managed to evade a Damian McKenzie tackle to spark jubilant scenes on the pitch and in the stands.
It was the perfect start for England and improved an already outstanding atmosphere even further.
2. England miss Hartley when he’s absent
Dylan Hartley only lasted the first half but he was superb again at Twickenham.
After another impressive maul, Hartley emerged with the ball to score England’s second try. He was replaced at the break by Jamie George as Eddie Jones added a bit more legs.
Hartley’s co-captain Farrell was as impressive, continuing where he left off against South Africa.
After Hartley’s exit at the break, England struggled in the line out and without his leadership, they lost their way.
3. England fail to heed Jones’ warning
England were mightily impressive in the first half against the All Blacks but it was a different story after the break.
Jones has said all week that the All Blacks come alive in the last quarter – but they did it even earlier here.
From 15-0 down they stormed back and with 20 minutes remaining they’d scored 16 unanswered points to lead.
England struggled to get possession as they faced phase after phase of All Blacks pressure.
4. Royal seal of approval
Prince Harry was in attendance as he lay a wreath on the pitch before the game.
Harry is the patron of the RFU and was in attendance as part of the Remembrance Day commemorations.
He met Lancelot Slocock and Ronnie Coulton, descendants of two England captains who died in the First World War.
Harry wasn’t joined by the Duchess of Sussex though, who had been tipped to be in the stands.
Meghan will be at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall later on Saturday evening instead.
We expect their first child will be a huge rugby fan just like her dad.
5) Reasons for optimism
While this will be a difficult defeat to take for Jones and his players, there will be plenty of positives to reflect on in the coming days.
England may have let their lead slip but they pushed the best international side in thew world all the way.
This one came on the back of the hard-fought win over South Africa and Jones will be reasonably pleased with the displays in these two matches.
England welcome Japan to Twickenham next weekend and if they can keep up this level of performance, a dominant victory will be on the cards.
This level must be the minimum for these players going forward.
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