LONDON (AP) — New Zealand survived a late scare to hold on for a 16-15 comeback victory over England at Twickenham in their first matchup in four years on Saturday.
England thought it secured a rare victory over the world champion when Sam Underhill touched down five minutes from fulltime, but video review revealed Courtney Lawes was offside when he made a chargedown to launch the move.
England made a dream start as Chris Ashton and co-captain Dylan Hartley scored tries either side of an Owen Farrell dropped goal for 15-0 after 24 minutes.
New Zealand struck back through fullback Damian McKenzie near halftime, then a crucial kickoff error from Farrell allowed the All Blacks to close the deficit to five points at the break.
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Both sides had opportunities for more tries after in the second half but chances were repeatedly spurned in the spoiling rain. Beauden Barrett’s dropped goal and penalty put the All Blacks ahead on the hour mark, setting up a dramatic finale.
After upsetting the Springboks by a point, an even better England performance gave Eddie Jones’ side plenty of reason for optimism less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
But beating the All Blacks remains elusive, and the visitors celebrated a sixth straight win against England.
Having taken until the second half to make it into the Springboks’ 22 a week ago, England made the perfect start as Ashton, making his first start in four years, repaid Jones’ faith with a second-minute try.
England’s backs swung left, taking the All Black defense with them as Ashton held his position on the right wing. The alert Ben Youngs spotted him and sent a long pass for the wing to become the first England player to score three tries against New Zealand.
Farrell missed the conversion, but brought up his 700th England point soon after.
An overthrown All Blacks lineout allowed England to attack, and Youngs found Farrell for a dropped goal after 10 minutes.
New Zealand continued to make errors and England, enjoying momentum, chose to kick a penalty to the corner than at the posts. Itoje made the lineout catch, England drove, and Hartley’s try made the All Blacks look completely helpless.
Farrell’s conversion made it 15-0 and the All Blacks were unnerved. Barrett, up for a third world player of the year award, was making sloppy kicks.
New Zealand’s resolve was tested further when center Sonny Bill Williams was forced off with a shoulder injury a half hour in. Yet, they found their groove.
McKenzie, who had been the All Blacks’ biggest threat, ran a smart angle on the inside of Barrett and scored, setting up an easy conversion with halftime near.
Farrell kicked the restart straight into touch, and the All Blacks used the last chance to attack and earn a penalty in front of the posts. Barrett obliged, and while 15-10 behind, New Zealand carried momentum into the second half.
The All Blacks missed a try when a McKenzie break was wasted by Aaron Smith, but Barrett produced a dropped goal to make it 15-13.
England tried another attacking lineout rather than a penalty kick but prop Kyle Sinckler spilled the ball.
Another bad throw-in by Jamie George wasted another England chance, but Barrett made no mistake with a penalty kick to put the All Blacks ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
New Zealand looked like accelerating in the rain as more errors crept into England’s play, but roared on by the 80,000-strong crowd, the home side rallied impressively.
Lawes charged down replacement scrumhalf TJ Perenara, and Underhill twisted McKenzie to score in the left corner. But on TMO advice, referee Jerome Garces made the call against Lawes, who was in front of the last foot at a ruck.
Three seasons into Jones’ reign, England lost for only the second time at home.
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