All Blacks deny England drought-breaking win in Dunedin

Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks (left) celebrates with Mark Tele'a (right) on fulltime during the International Test Match against England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Anton Lienert-Brown of the All Blacks (left) celebrates with Mark Tele'a (right) on fulltime during the International Test Match against England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The All Blacks denied England a rare win in New Zealand by prevailing 16-15 in a Dunedin dogfight on Saturday to claim the first Test of the series and give new coach Scott Robertson victory in his first match in charge.

There was a whiff of an upset in the air under the roof at Forsyth Barr stadium as Steve Borthwick's England went toe-to-toe with the World Cup finalists and marched to a 15-10 lead early in the second half.

But flyhalf Damian McKenzie shrugged off some early inaccuracy to boot two penalties and a turnover penalty at the ruck condemned the English to an eighth successive defeat to the hosts in New Zealand.

“Immensely proud,” said All Blacks captain Scott Barrett. “We talked about just wearing them down with our ball-carry and breakdown.

“They stayed in the arm-wrestle. That last quarter we managed to put them in their corner and sort of won that territory battle.

“Quickly, the boys have really come together under a new coaching system.”

England were left to rue late lapses in discipline that allowed McKenzie to find his kicking boots after he missed two conversion attempts in the first half.

England flyhalf Marcus Smith will also lament a tough night off the tee, landing only two of his five kicks.

“Just a huge amount of pride for our boys, the way we fought and scrapped in that first half, in particular,” said England skipper Jamie George.

“Credit to the All Blacks in terms of how they played. A one-point game makes it exciting for next week.”

The two-match series moves to Eden Park in Auckland, where England will again attempt their first win in New Zealand since 2003.


It was a furious contest from the get-go, though both sides squandered early chances.

England's Smith fired wide after a scrum penalty before the All Blacks spilt the ball in a rumble towards the line.

But a superb cross-kick from McKenzie to Sevu Reece broke the deadlock in the 16th minute as the winger bolted over at the right corner for the first try in his first Test since 2022.

A false line drive saw England hit back five minutes later, though, with Maro Itoje bursting over from a metre out after flanker Chandler Cunningham-South drove the ball to the line.

The helter-skelter start continued as fullback Stephen Perofeta tore through midfield and released Ardie Savea down the right-wing for the hosts' second try to seize back the lead.

The lead stayed with the All Blacks to the brink of halftime but a timely turnover by England centre Ollie Lawrence allowed Smith to knock over a penalty to level the game.

It was a vital boost before the break and England returned to the field breathing fire.

A Tommy Freeman line-break was held up a metre from the line but Smith hurled the ball wide to a vacant left corner where an unmarked Immanuel Feyi-Waboso jogged over in the 48th minute.

Though Smith missed the conversion, England's second try saw Robertson go to his bench early, bringing Beauden Barrett on to dig in at fullback.

With history beckoning, England's discipline began to fray.

A ruck penalty allowed McKenzie to add three points with the boot and he nosed the hosts in front in the 65th minute with another kick for three after an offside penalty.

There was late drama as McKenzie lined up for another penalty kick and was timed out, handing England the ball for a last push.

It came to nothing as the All Blacks held on to give Robertson a tense first-up win.



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