It was a wonderful and compelling test match that helped me from the beginning to the end and one of the best English performances for a long time. But it was a test they should have won.
In the first place, they let slip that precious advantage of 15 points, but even then, showing great courage and conviction despite having been beaten for most of the second half, they put themselves in a position to override the goal. of winning fall – and they blew it up.
Owen Farrell, who had cheered my heart in the first half with only the third goal lost in the rugby test, was in position, as was George Ford. It was all there for the taking, but England was not all on the same page.
England can be proud of its performance against New Zealand despite the outcome
The attackers were hammering away, but not in a controlled way with a falling target in mind. They were just trying to make some difficult construction sites.
And then, with the worst conditions ever, Courtney Lawes, who otherwise enjoyed a huge game for England, opened the ball to the right and the ball rebounded. This, in many ways, was the game right there – forget the brilliant but, unfortunately, Sam Underhill's attempt.
Owen Farrell scored only his third goal in disadvantage in the rugby test and had further possibilities
I expect confidentially that two or three of the big knockout games in Japan next year will be won by a kick-off and that England must get routine to death in order.
A call must come out and the half-scrum needs to direct it like a cop, just like Matt Dawson did when we implemented the zig-zag game in 2003.
I thought the Underhill trial was a 50-50 call – how well did it get, by the way, running Beauden Barrett ragged? – but the thing about such calls is that they can go against you.
The referee can not fail to allow a drop goal, given the technology we have! This is the biggest lesson to learn from this game.
I'm also trying to figure out why Dylan Hartley was subtitled after a superb opening 40's where the English line had been solid. He was enjoying his best game in England since their record run.
Dylan Hartley had a superb 40 minute opening and it was surprising that it was subtitled
After the break, England lost five outs and that's not all for Jamie George. New Zealand and Brodie Retallick have decided to start attacking the shot in England, but, in the same way, the home team has fatally lost the pace that served them so well. Do not try to fix what is not broken.
And there's another element in this call. Like the number 10 and the pastry chef, Farrell has enough on his plate. I'm not sure if it happens when it plays halfway. In the middle, yes – fly in half, I worry. He became a bit torn by his own standards in the second half.
These are issues to be addressed, but none of them detracts from the benefits that everyone can be proud of. The crowd recognized this despite their disappointment and now I am sure England is at the start of a very strong rebound after a difficult year.
For the first 38 minutes of the first half, England went beyond praise – the best we've seen in many years – but it was disappointing to see them losing focus in those last two minutes.
The speed of the defending line had been brilliant up until then, but they allowed Ryan Crotty to make too many easy yards in Damian McKenzie's build up until he was behind.
Ben Young was mixing beautifully: it was such a smart rugby and a joy to watch
Then Farrell, among all the people, pumped the ball directly into touch from the restart with seconds remaining, which allowed New Zealand to establish another strong position from which they won a penalty. I'm pretty sure he was trying to kick long and hard to give New Zealand a few or no chance of counterattacking, but it was a costly mistake.
Up until then he had been perfect for the field, with England challenging the conditions to play wonderfully precise and precise rugby. It was so encouraging to look and prove that New Zealand is not superhumans. They can make mistakes like anyone else, if pressurized.
The conditions were terrible, the rain was so heavy, but the quality was there from the beginning and the English defense was immense. All congratulations to defense technician John Mitchell for that.
Everyone was on agreement. Underhill was in the part to deal with everything that moved and did it to perfection. The New Zealand sides will rarely have a car to face like that in the face. Ten contrasts – most of them monsters – in the first half alone.
Itoje dominated the line-out – Hartley threw very well – and was everywhere at liberty along with Kyle Sinckler and Wilson, while his discipline was much better.
Chris Ashton, rather than surprisingly, managed to score just two minutes later
Ben Young was mixing beautifully, it was such a smart rugby and a joy to watch. And even confident, the time they moved quickly in their 22 to create a better opportunity for Henry Slade, he talked about a team with enormous confidence in their abilities.
Chris Ashton scored after just two minutes – of course he did – and the comeback from England to send Hartley to load the book from the slight delay after taking the ball, to put everyone in the right position and then the perfect timing of Ashton and Farrell and other ranks to join the fray to add momentum.
Yet despite all this, England has fallen into the tunnel just five points. New Zealand would undoubtedly have been the happiest team in the half-time locker room. They came out and effectively won the second half 6-0.
It does not sound much but they have taken control and make no mistake this was huge for them. In other words, a Saturday defeat would have repelled them a bit after having recently lost to South Africa and also having climbed home in a second game against the Bok who could have easily lost. New Zealand is well and truly back on track now.