- Julian Savea and Aaron Smith braces defeat England
- Marland Yarde scores consolation for visitors
New Zealand 36 England 13
Julian Savea and Aaron Smith scored first-half doubles as New Zealand overwhelmed England in the third Test in Hamilton to equal the world record of consecutive Test wins.
Steve Hansen’s side completed a 3-0 series win and their 17th straight victory after an opening 40 minutes when a series of turnovers and missed tackles were capitalised on by the clinical hosts.
Savea, who has now plundered seven tries in four games against England, and Smith exploited Stuart Lancaster’s side twice on either flank as the All Blacks built a 29-6 lead by the break.
But character abounds and the forwards hauled England into the game in the second half, sparked by Marland Yarde’s opportunistic try on 42 minutes.
Aggressive line-speed was starting to force errors and the set-piece showed renewed stability but despite long spells camped in New Zealand’s 22, there was not another try until Savea completed the second hat-trick of his career after the hooter.
England made a torrid start at the wet Waikato Stadium, compounding a series of errors which ceded territory to an All Blacks’ backline which was at its brutal best.
Savea collected Ben Smith’s scoring pass to exploit an overlap in the third minute before Aaron Cruden ghosted through big hole in midfield to set up the hulking wing – who expertly plucked the ball off his bootlaces – for his second within nine minutes.
With 23 tries in just 22 Tests, the Hurricanes wing is an irresistible force in international rugby. Freddie Burns added a simple penalty in between the tries from a rare foray into New Zealand’s half, but the one way traffic continued.
Savea should have had a 12-minute hat-trick – Ben Smith’s “scoring” pass was rightly adjudged forwards – and Chris Ashton somehow prevented Dane Coles from freeing Aaron Smith metres from the try-line after a smart lineout move.
Cruden added a penalty on 15 minutes and although Burns responded with one of his own two minutes later after Richie McCaw infringed on the deck, Aaron Smith grabbed a brace before the break.
The All Blacks were gorging on 71 per cent territory and 60 per cent possession but England missed a series of one-on-one tackles. With Billy Vunipola harshly send to the sin bin on 20 for a high tackle on Cruden, Cory Jane stepped inside Yarde and passed to Smith, who brilliantly tracked the wing’s run.
The Highlanders No.9, showing the running ability which augments his expert kicking game, completed the second brace of his 29-Test career after full back Ben Smith eased through the line and passed to his namesake. Cruden added both conversions as England trudged into the dressing rooms 29-6 in arrears.
England has their best spell on the resumption, ignited by the sharpness of Ben Youngs. Joe Launchbury carried strongly and offloaded to Youngs who in turn shifted the ball out of the tackle to Manu Tuilagi. When the big centre was hauled down inches from the line, Yarde picked up at the resultant breakdown and muscled over the line.
The half was only two minutes old when Burns pumped over the conversion and he immediately sent a penalty into New Zealand’s 22 to start an attack which finished with Yarde over the try-line once again. Bright scrum half Youngs was heavily involved but the Harlequins-bound wing was held up by Jane’s covering tackle.
England’s resurgence continued on the back of hard running from the forwards as the game evened up. Yarde was the most dangerous ball carrier; beating Ma’a Nonu and only being denied on the cover by Savea.
England’s defence, presumably given a rev-up by Andy Farrell at half time, was forcing New Zealand into errors but despite long spells camped in the 22 and some bright probing from replacement Danny Cipriani the visitors could not break through.
Replacement Ben Morgan went close after a powerful catch and drive late on but it was New Zealand and that man Savea who scored the game’s final try after the hooter had sounded.
Fellow wing Jane, a constant menace, again stepped inside and produced a hooked offload for Savea to stroll over and complete a fine treble.
England will take solace in pushing New Zealand mightily close over the first two Tests but now must regroup for four Test matches this autumn against the best teams the southern hemisphere has to offer.
Lancaster will be intent on starting the Rugby World Cup season with a win against the first visitors to Twickenham on November 8, the buoyant All Blacks.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Malakai Fekitoa, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Ryan Crotty.
England: Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Eastmond, Marland Yarde, Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, David Wilson, Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (capt), Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Rob Webber, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson, Danny Cipriani, Luther Burrell.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).