“We expected England to be a very good side and that’s what we got,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a televised interview.
“We had to work for it but when you come off limited preparations you are going to be rusty and we were.
“Our handling at times was very poor, from our strike plays we let ourselves down a bit, but we showed really good mental fortitude to stay in the game. “I think we controlled the game in the second half but didn’t put them away because of our errors. “Happy to take the win but clearly work to be done before next week.”
The tourists, who were written off during the week because several first team players only arrived in the country on Wednesday following the England club final, showed they would be a force at next year’s World Cup with their developing depth and all-round game.
Unlike England sides of the past, they were prepared to spread the ball wide with Manu Tuilagi, who tore the All Blacks to shreds two years ago at Twickenham, again the focal point of their attack, constantly threatening the line and making ground. The visitors also controlled the tempo of the game in the first half and did not allow the All Blacks to develop any rhythm. “I think we were probably half a yard off the pace in the first half,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. “It took us about 40 minutes to build into it and it was a lot better in the second half even though the scoreboard was pretty close.” The scoring in the first half was restricted to three penalties each to England flyhalf Freddie Burns and Cruden despite several attempts by both sides to breach smothering defensive lines. The All Blacks upped their tempo in the second half and dominated territory but were again guilty of stupid errors, either in execution or discipline that released any pressure they had built up.
The match then ultimately turned on Yarde’s yellow card after he failed to roll away following a tackle on Brodie Retallick. While replacement Danny Cipriani levelled the scores at 15-15 with little over five minutes remaining, Smith’s late try gave the hosts the breathing room they required. The visitors, however, now head to next week’s second test in Dunedin with supreme confidence with a full squad to pick from. “I’m very pleased with the guys, we’ve got two games remaining in the series and that’s what it’s all about,” England captain Chris Robshaw said. “We’re disappointed but it’s a three game series and… we’re going to get better over the next few weeks.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)