New Zealand squeeze past England 16-15 in Dunedin

Ardie Savea was one of the try-scorer for New Zealand
Ardie Savea was one of the try-scorer for New Zealand

New Zealand 16-15 England, Dunedin

New Zealand kick-started the Scott Robertson era with a hard-fought 16-15 victory over England in Dunedin.

England came close to winning their first encounter against the All Blacks since 2003 but were left disappointed not to cross the line. As for New Zealand, there was a sense of relief. 

England had an early opportunity to open their account as a scrum infringement from the All Blacks allowed an early opportunity for Marcus Smith but the fly-half's kick drifted wide from a 40m distance.

Steve Borthwick's troops looked threatening as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso launched an attack but a knock on from Henry Slade kept them scoreless.

But it was first blood to New Zealand when Damian McKenzie spotted a gap with a thumping pass to Sevu Reece, who went past a tackle from Tommy Freeman for the opening try. 

England responded sharply in the 21st minute when Chandler Cunningham-South breached the All Blacks defence with Maro Itoje picking and diving over to touchdown. Smith followed with the conversion making it 5-7.

The All Blacks doubled their tally as a missed tackle from Ben Earl allowed Stephen Perofeta to sneak through England's defence and he combined with Reece to send Ardie Savea over the line. McKenzie once again missed the conversion.

However, the scores were level just before half-time thanks to a Smith penalty.

England had an early opportunity for a second-half lead but Smith - who, in general, had an off night with the boot - missed a penalty but the visitors got their second try shortly after when the fly-half and Alex Mitchell sent Feyi-Waboso into the corner. Smith could not quite get the conversion right, leaving it at 10-15.

The gap narrowed to two points as McKenzie kicked a penalty goal in the 55th minute and he nudged the All Blacks ahead just over 10 minutes later.

In the closing stages, New Zealand were awarded another penalty following a no-arms tackle from Alex Coles but the shot clock expired as McKenzie took too long to kick. England had a late opportunity but their attack ended with a scrum infringement as the All Blacks started the series with a one-point victory.

The two teams will face each other in the 2nd Test at Eden Park next Saturday where New Zealand have not lost for 30 years.

Team line-ups

New Zealand XV: 1 Ethan de Groot, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Tyrel Lomax; 4 Scott Barrett (capt.), 5 Patrick Tuipulotu; 6 Samipeni Finau, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 8 Ardie Savea; 9 TJ Perenara, 10 Damian McKenzie; 11 Mark Tele’a, 12 Jordie Barrett, 13 Rieko Ioane, 14 Sevu Reece; 15 Stephen Perofeta

Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Luke Jacobson; 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Beauden Barrett

England XV: 1 Joe Marler, 2 Jamie George (capt.), 3 Will Stuart; 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Martin; 6 Chandler Cunningham-South, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Ben Earl; 9 Alex Mitchell, 10 Marcus Smith; 11 Tommy Freeman, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 13 Henry Slade, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso; 15 George Furbank.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Tom Curry; 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Fin Smith, Ollie Sleightholme.