New Zealand 28-27 England
England praise high-speed All Blacks
June 15, 2014
Owen Farrell's yellow card resulted in New Zealand scoring ten points © Getty Images

Close as they've come to toppling the All Blacks in two Tests, England admit they're still not yet worthy of dining at world rugby's top table. The tourists once again pushed the world champions to the limit in a 28-27 loss at Dunedin on Saturday to follow a 20-15 defeat in Auckland last week.

While the second Test scoreline was closer, it flattered England who scored two late tries. However, they were still highly competitive, dominating the opening half hour before getting blown away when New Zealand increased the tempo.

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Assistant coach Andy Farrell said the All Blacks' ability to deliver and to play an intense, error-free game at high speed still set them apart. "In the first half we were the ones who were pushing the pace," he said. "In the second half they showed why they are world champions. Their speed of thought and speed of the game was outstanding."

Coach Stuart Lancaster was proud his team were able to absorb the assault and respond with their own late strikes. It only took a couple of key mistakes early in the second half to open the door, he said, lamenting some poor choices to offload and some loose kicking. "It's decision-making at the highest level that we need to look at."

Flanker Tom Wood, one of five first-choice players restored for the second Test, admired New Zealand's ability to withstand another fierce England challenge. "They've got the biggest targets on their head, they are used to teams coming out of the blocks with all guns blazing. They weather the storm and back themselves with their fitness to turn up the heat in the second half and blow teams away. They're used to that feeling."

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Manu Tuilagi, so effective as a blockbusting centre for England in the first Test, played a limited role on the wing. Lancaster says he won't consider his selection options until after the tour match against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Tuesday.

"I thought we created lots of opportunities and three tries in Dunedin isn't a bad return either so we're heading in the right direction," he said.

English media have also heaped praise on the All Blacks, with many of the British press singling out All Blacks fullback Ben Smith as the player of the match. But they also praised England for their courageous fightback.

"This may have lacked the ferocity and strain of a World Cup showdown, but to rally in New Zealand, reduce the losing margin to a single point and have the breath to say how disappointed they were to have lost the game and the series gave this encounter real value,'' wrote The Guardian's Eddie Butler. ''If the brain can cope with all that, then it should be able to sort out saying no to the risky pass and yes to keeping an eye on the ball.''

New Zealand 28-27 England (video available in Australia only)

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