New Zealand edged out England 28-27 in a stunning match in Dunedin on Saturday, showing exactly why they are world champions.
The All Blacks have now taken a 2-0 lead in the three-Test series over Stuart Lancaster's England, leaving them with only pride to play for in Hamilton on June 21.
Though the victory looks far from comfortable on paper for the hosts, their second-half rugby was absolutely terrific, and it ended up being a deserved triumph.
However, it was Lancaster's men who started the brighter, picking up from where they left off in the first Test with some terrific early play.
Owen Farrell's penalty gave the English the lead they deserved after three minutes, and it got a whole lot better just five minutes later.
Marland Yarde, who was sin-binned in the first Test, made amends with a terrific try to give England a dream start. Shrugging off challenges from Richie McCaw and Aaron Cruden, Yarde touched down before Farrell converted to give the visitors a 10-0 lead.
The lightning-fast start was enough for England to hold the advantage heading into the interval, with a pair of Cruden penalties the only responses from the All Blacks making it 10-6 at the break.
However, after what was presumably a grilling from coach Steve Hansen, New Zealand came out of the traps for the second half in irresistible form.
Just five minutes into the second period, the All Blacks took the lead—Julian Savea powered down the wing before finding Ben Smith in heaps of space and he did the rest with minimal fuss, 13-10.
Though Farrell's penalty restored parity moments later, New Zealand then turned on the style to run away with the victory.
Using an all-out-attack approach, England failed to cope with what the world champions were throwing at them and saw the match slip from their grasp.
Tries from Savea and Ma'a Nonu with good kicking from Beauden Barrett put the hosts into a 28-13 lead, from which England were just unable to recover.
However, showing the kind of never-say-die attitude that they have become famous for, England ran New Zealand close with a pair of tries in the dying embers of the match.
Mike Brown and Chris Ashton both crossed the line with previously sin-binned Farrell adding the extras, but it just wasn't enough to catch the All Blacks.
Following the match, England coach Lancaster heaped praise on his side's character and resilience after staging their late fight-back and said he's hoping for a victory to finish the tour off—per Sky Sports:
We showed tremendous character and I thought we showed great class in the first half but you have to take your hat off to them. To come back into the game and get to 28-27 shows great character from the boys. When we look at the tape and realise the opportunities we missed I think we'll be a better side. It was a difficult task but I'm proud of the boys. No, it's not good enough for our expectation and it's important for us to finish this tour with a win.
Though the series may be over for England, they can hold their heads high after two brave performances against the best team on the planet.
Being able to wrestle your way back into contention is a skill that stands any nation in good stead even against the most daunting of oppositions, and that's just one of several positives that Lancaster will be taking out of Saturday's defeat.
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