Julian Savea leads the All Blacks to a big victory over England

Having IRB World Player of the Year Kieran Read back gave the All Blacks a big lift
Having IRB World Player of the Year Kieran Read back gave the All Blacks a big lift

The three-test series ended in a 3-0 win to the home side but whilst the first two matches were close, the third was anything but...

The All Blacks could argue that they took their foot off the pedal following their four-try demolition before the interval, but Lancaster’s outfit displayed their ability to fight, and the lift in intensity, almost out of embarrassment, was obvious.

Perhaps the inevitable happened...after a long season and a number of tired bodies, England were outplayed and outfought by a dominant All Blacks' outfit.

Regardless of an improved second-half display, where Stuart Lancaster's men at least regained a certain amount of respectability in the scoreline, the opening period showed the hosts at their most brilliant.

Intense, physical and superbly clinical, Steve Hansen's side exposed a surprisingly woeful Red Rose defence, where their midfield frailties were apparent.

Kyle Eastmond, playing in his fourth Test match, displayed a lack of defensive nous and was eventually hauled off at half-time to be replaced by Luther Burrell. Not that the Northampton Saints' player enjoyed the game much more having struggled to make any impact with ball in hand, when the visitors were making headway into the New Zealand rearguard.

In fact, the two halves were mirror images. As much as the home team enjoyed all the territorial supremacy in the opening period, England controlled matters after the break.
The only - and most crucial difference - came in the Kiwis' ability to take their opportunities.

The All Blacks could argue that they took their foot off the pedal following their four-try demolition before the interval, but Lancaster's outfit displayed their ability to fight, and the lift in intensity, almost out of embarrassment, was obvious.

However, the hosts had a point to prove. Where doubts had been placed over the positions of Aaron Cruden, Ma'a Nonu and some of the forwards - Tony Woodcock and Dane Coles in particular - the critics were categorically answered.

With IRB World Player of the Year Kieran Read back in the pack at no. 8, it seemed to give the rest of his cohorts an immediate lift.

Unlike in the first Test, England's defence failed to win the gain line battle. Playing with both physicality and intelligence, New Zealand continuously got in behind the tourists' rearguard in the first half.

With the forwards getting on the front foot and using their maul to commit numbers, the backline wreaked havoc. Julian Savea scored a brilliant hat-trick, confirming him to be the most potent finisher in the world, while Cory Jane, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith also stood out.

For the Red Rose, the first half was a disastrous affair but in scrum-half Ben Youngs, they found a man to lead them out of the abyss.

Youngs' break, from an intelligent Joe Launchbury off-load, set-up the position for Marland Yarde's try as they secured their only touchdown of the match.

But they had other opportunities. As bad as Yarde was in defence in the opening period, the winger was effective in attack - in fact, he could have scored on three occasions.

However, in those moments it displayed the difference between England and New Zealand. Where the home side took the correct the option 90 per cent of the time, the visitors were profligate throughout the second period.

Yarde running away from support and into touch was a perfect example. There is no doubting the 22-year-old's pace but trying to take Savea on the outside isn't the wisest idea.

The former London Irish player also did well to break through Nonu's tackle only to fail to spot the supporting Burrell on his shoulder, exemplifying some poor decision-making.

Despite concerns over the final Test performance, it shouldn't detract from what has otherwise been a positive tour. They ran the All Blacks close in the first two encounters and caused the world champions numerous problems.

The weekend's display could be down to a number of factors - namely fatigue and the All Blacks finding something close to top form - but Lancaster should be content with their competitiveness going into the Autumn series.

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