New Zealand vs. England: Score and Lessons Learned from Auckland Test
New Zealand 20-15 England
New Zealand squeaked home against a determined England in Auckland on Saturday.
Performances by a host of players considered far from first choice before this game will have given Stuart Lancaster plenty of food for thought while New Zealand will be thankful to have escaped with Conrad Smith's late try.
This was far from the slaughter feared given the number of players missing from the touring side, with England controlling large sections of the game.
Here are the lessons learned.
England Have Scrum Dominance
The All Blacks were a clear second best at scrum time, giving away penalties under English pressure put on by David Wilson and Joe Marler.
The set piece provided England with a platform to play from as well as causing New Zealand all sorts of problems in their attempts to launch attacks from their own put-in.
The tourists must look to make more of this advantage in the second and third Tests and deny the home side any chance to get comfortable with their scrummaging.
England Need Clinical Edge
We saw a few missed chances from England in the Six Nations after they carved teams open, and it happened again in Auckland.
In the first half, Chris Robshaw's break from the base of the ruck got his side in behind the All Blacks deep in their 22-metre area, but they couldn't finish the chance off.
After half-time, Ben Morgan's barnstorming run from a scrum on England's own five-metre line was followed by a slashing break by Kyle Eastmond.
The Bath man's pass couldn’t find the supporting Mike Brown and the chance was lost. With the All Blacks on the rack, those chances have to be converted if you’re going to beat them.
Eastmond Joins the Centre Debate
Prior to this game Kyle Eastmond was considered one of the weakest points of a supposedly weakened team, but he proved the doubters wring with an accomplished performance.
He looked dangerous in attack and was solid defensively. His kicking game may not be of the standard of Billy Twelvetrees, but the former rugby league player has the X-factor that can unlock defences.
He complemented Manu Tuilagi well and has provided another option of Test quality to Stuart Lancaster in a position that has posed such problems for England since Will Greenwood vacated the slot.
All Blacks Will Shake off the Rust
The worry for England is that this was their chance to catch the All Blacks cold.
The dropped passes and creaking set pieces will surely be ironed out in time for the second Test.
England will look to their returning first-choice players and take confidence from the way they kept the world champions at bay, but you have to expect New Zealand to find another couple of gears next week.