All Blacks choke at death in draw with England

This article originally appeared on Stuff and is reproduced with permission

That ought to leave a bad taste in the gobs of Ian Foster’s All Blacks.

Conceding three tries to England in the final eight minutes and having to settle for a 25-25 draw at Twickenham will do that.

To think the All Blacks were in command, 25-6 up and on the cusp of salvaging what was a hellish season not so long ago with a seventh straight win.

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However, on a night French referee Mathieu Raynal blew a staggering 28 penalties, and one which the English had been sluggish throughout much of the game, the hosts woke up in the final 10 minutes and torched the All Blacks, who collapsed with Beauden Barrett in the bin (professional crowd) down the stretch.

Having drawn even with the All Blacks after Will Stuart’s last-minute try, England turned down the chance to chase victory in the waning seconds.

That might have come as a relief for the gassed All Blacks, who had been all over England in London, where the Jason Ryan-led forward pack enjoyed moments of pure scrum and maul dominance.

The All Blacks also fed the hosts a heavy dose of cross-field kicks, with Richie Mo’unga, Jordie and Beauden Barrett all sending them wing Caleb Clarke’s way.

They had mixed success. However, it was Beauden Barrett’s nudge to Clarke early in the second half which led to Rieko Ioane dashing 80 meters and giving the New Zealanders a 22-6 lead with half an hour to play.

It was their first five-pointer since the ninth minute, after the All Blacks flew out of the gates and rocked England twice, starting with flanker Dalton Papali’i’s 50m intercept try in the third minute.

On the back of skipper Sam Whitelock turning down the sticks and opting for touch, the All Blacks’ pack flexed their muscles and rake Codie Taylor flopped over.

Frankly, England were poor for the majority of the night. Particularly in the first half, when one could only imagine what head coach Eddie Jones was thinking as his ill-disciplined team butchered chances and gifted the All Blacks a bag full.

Not one to hold back when speaking to the media, don’t be surprised if he gives Raynal a spray in the aftermath of the match, one he ruled with an iron fist, blowing a string of pedantic and sometimes perplexing calls.

The faithful Twickenham, who started the night by doing a decent job drowning out the haka with Swing Low Sweet Chariot, sure made their feelings known during the game.

English fans watching at home no doubt watched their pets scurry from their living room as they voiced their displeasure, too.

But Jones, having watched his side finally wake up and salvage a draw, will also surely look closer to home when he analyzes the 80 minutes.

Halfback Jack van Poortvliet, who threw the intercept pass to Papali’i, had a nightmare match, blotted by mistakes.

England conceded 14 penalties, two of them 5m from the All Blacks’ line as they attempted to launch lineout drives.

They were also disjointed on attack and made poor decisions when inside the attacking zone. Touch was also missed when they were awarded penalties.

Had the All Blacks not had their own discipline issues – they were also penalized 14 times – a draw would have been out of reach.

One of those penalties, an Ioane neck roll, wiped out a try which would have given the All Blacks a 21-0 lead inside 17 minutes.

The big moment

It has to be Will Stuart’s 79th minute try, one which salvaged a draw for the English, who looked dead and buried just 10 minutes earlier.

Where on earth had that attacking mojo been earlier?

Match rating

7/10. Started and finished with a hiss and a roar, but fizzled out in the middle. Nobody wants to hear 28 penalties fill the air.

MVP

Take your pick. But it’s hard to go reserve English forward Will Stuart, who scored twice in the final 10 minutes to deny New Zealand a seventh win on a night Brodie Retallick became the 12th All Black to play 100 tests.

The big picture

The All Blacks finish the season with eight wins, four losses and a draw. Not bad given the crater-sized hole they were in a few months ago. However, as the World Cup looms, this late collapse will hurt.

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