Late off­side call res­cues All Blacks

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - JACK DE MENEZES

Eng­land 15 New Zealand 16

SEVEN days af­ter hav­ing lady luck smile on them, Eng­land were on the end of yet an­other con­tro­ver­sial fin­ish at Twick­en­ham as New Zealand se­cured a thrilling come­back vic­tory. Early tries from Chris Ash­ton and Dy­lan Hart­ley, plus five points from the boot of Owen Far­rell, put Eng­land 15-0 up in just 24 min­utes as they threat­ened to pull off a sec­ond up­set vic­tory in as many weeks. But New Zealand, hav­ing looked a shadow of their usual selves, even­tu­ally fought back as Damian McKenzie and Beau­den Bar­rett cut the deficit, and it was the lat­ter’s drop goal and penalty that ul­ti­mately se­cured the All Blacks a fifth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory over Eng­land.

But hav­ing seen the TMO rule in their favour last week over Far­rell’s con­tro­ver­sial tackle on An­dre Esthuizen, this time it was for Mar­ius Jonker to chalk off Sam Un­der­hill’s 76th-minute try, with the South African de­cid­ing that Court­ney Lawes was off­side with his charge-down that re­leased the flanker to score.

It was a highly con­tentious de­ci­sion that will be de­bated just as hard, if not harder, than last week’s, but it should not be lost that Eng­land are prov­ing them­selves a match for the best teams the world has to of­fer.

Six years ago it was Ash­ton’s try in the left cor­ner that killed off the All Blacks’ chal­lenge and se­cured what was only Eng­land’s sixth vic­tory in his­tory in this ri­valry. But where that try ended a con­test, his one just two min­utes into this match made one.

To be fair, it couldn’t have been made much eas­ier for him as the All Blacks, ar­riv­ing nine days in ad­vance to avoid any jet lag for this fix­ture, were fast asleep for the open­ing quar­ter. As Far­rell and Ben Te’o drifted left, the All Blacks failed to spot Ash­ton stay­ing right, and Ben Youngs looped a miss-pass to the wing who had more than enough to sprint in from 20 me­tres out. Dif­fer­ent cor­ner, same re­sult, though Far­rell missed the con­ver­sion.

By their high stan­dards, New Zealand were aw­ful, and the main culprit was Bar­rett. Too of­ten he missed touch with his kicks and when he failed to take a high ball, Eng­land at­tacked, and be­fore the vis­i­tors knew what was hap­pen­ing Far­rell had moved into the pocket and fired over the lesser-spot­ted drop goal to in­crease the lead to eight points.

The 82,149 in at­ten­dance were rock­ing, and be­fore they knew what was hap­pen­ing, Eng­land were in again.

McKenzie was be­ing pep­pered by the high ball from Youngs and Far­rell, and af­ter Eng­land forced a penalty when New Zealand were caught off­side from an­other failed catch from Bar­rett, Eng­land went for the jugu­lar. Far­rell kicked to touch on the 22, and with Maro Itoje safely se­cur­ing pos­ses­sion, Eng­land set up the driv­ing maul. Much has been made about this ap­par­ently un­der­pow­ered pack not be­ing able to bully teams up front, but the maul rum­bled to­wards the try line and when Far­rell, Te’o, Henry Slade and Ash­ton added their weight, co-cap­tain Hart­ley was driven over to add a sec­ond try.

Far­rell’s con­ver­sion put Eng­land 15 points to the good and New Zealand were on the ropes. But they are back-to­back world cham­pi­ons for good rea­son, and fi­nally Bar­rett started to find his feet to get them out of neu­tral and into first gear.

The in­jury-en­forced de­par­ture of Sonny Bill Wil­liams helped them, with Ryan Crotty pro­vid­ing a much bet­ter link in mid­field, and when they fi­nally broke the line they forced a penalty in front of the posts that would surely cut the deficit by three. Not for this side though, as Kieran Read made the gutsy call to go for the try, and within three phases Bar­rett sent McKenzie over on his in­side shoul­der as Slade and Far­rell were sucked in and Te’o couldn’t get across to cover in time.

With their tails up, New Zealand pressed on and forced an­other penalty soon af­ter, but with less than 60 sec­onds left on the clock Read this time pointed for goal and Bar­rett duly obliged, with the out-half pun­ish­ing Eng­land for be­ing off­side.

Hav­ing been a be­wil­der­ing two points down last week­end de­spite be­ing dom­i­nated for the en­tire half, Eng­land will have won­dered how they were only five points ahead at the break. But the sec­ond half started in a more fa­mil­iar pat­tern, with New Zealand at­tack­ing from all ar­eas and Eng­land cling­ing on by the skin of their teeth.

Ardie Savea should have gone over in only the sec­ond minute of the half, but Ben Smith’s in­ci­sive break in mid­field and Aaron Smith’s sup­port­ing line went un­re­warded as the fi­nal pass was be­hind flanker Savea and it was dropped as a re­sult.

Bar­rett cut the deficit fur­ther though with a drop goal of his own five min­utes later, the first of his 71-cap in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, and when Ash­ton was caught off­side in the 60th minute, Bar­rett landed a dif­fi­cult ef­fort to put New Zealand in front for the first time.

Eng­land would not give in though, and with time run­ning out, it looked like they’d won it. Re­place­ment Lawes used every part of his 6ft 7in frame to charge down TJ Per­e­nara, and with Un­der­hill gather­ing and out­smart­ing Bar­rett to go over in the cor­ner, the sta­dium erupted in delir­ium.

Jerome Garces awarded the try, only to then de­cide to check if Lawes was on­side, and un­able to de­cide him­self he left the de­ci­sion to Jonker.

“Off­side,” came the call, the de­ci­sion was over­turned and New Zealand were left to cel­e­brate know­ing how much of an es­cape this was.

Scor­ers — Eng­land: Ash­ton, Hart­ley tries; Far­rell con, Far­rell drop goal. New Zealand: McKenzie try; B Bar­rett con; B Bar­rett pens (2); B Bar­rett drop goal.

Eng­land: E Daly; C Ash­ton (J Now­ell, 68), H Slade, B Te’o (G Ford, 72), J May; O Far­rell, B Youngs (D Care, 63); B Moon (A Hep­burn, 58), D Hart­ley (J Ge­orge 41), K Sinck­ler (H Wil­liams, 58); M Itoje, G Kruis (C Ewels, 66); B Shields (C Lawes, 65), S Un­der­hill, M Wil­son.

New Zealand: D McKenzie (R Mo’unga, 63); B Smith, J Good­hue, SB Wil­liams (R Crotty, 31), R Ioane; B Bar­rett, A Smith (TJ Per­e­nara, 63); K Tu’inukuafe (O Tu’un­gafasi, 57), C Taylor (D Coles, 44), O Franks (N Laulala 44); S White­lock, B Re­tal­lick; L Squire (S Bar­rett, 52), A Savea (M Todd, 68), K Read.

Photo: Phil Wal­ter

Kieran Read wins a li­ne­out for New Zealand dur­ing yes­ter­day’s match at Twick­en­ham.

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