England v New Zealand
All Blacks' class tells at Twickenham
ESPN Staff
November 8, 2014
Date/Time: Nov 8, 2014, 14:30 local, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
England 21 - 24 New Zealand
Attendance: 82223  Half-time: 14 - 11
Tries: May, Penalty
Cons: Ford
Pens: Farrell 3
Tries: Cruden, Faumuina, McCaw
Pens: Barrett, Cruden 2
Billy Vunipola tackles Aaron Cruden, England v New Zealand, Twickenham Stadium, November 8, 2014
Billy Vunipola leaps to tackle Aaron Cruden
© Getty Images

England's ambition of issuing a statement of intent ahead of next year's World Cup was crushed by a losing start to the autumn series that saw New Zealand depart Twickenham narrow 24-21 winners.

The triumph, described by former captain Martin Johnson as the 'Holy Grail', slipped from their hands after the All Blacks dominated the second half to extend their mastery of the fixture to five successive victories.

While the pre-match attention focused on the debut of serving British Army soldier Semesa Rokoduguni, it was his fellow wing Jonny May who brought Twickenham to its feet with a stunning solo try.

May, the fastest player in England's squad, switched on the afterburners to sprint around Conrad Smith and Israel Dagg as England made a dream start to the first of their autumn internationals.

New Zealand's response through Aaron Cruden was shrouded in controversy as the fly-half did not appear to ground the ball properly and England were able to reflect on a strong first half they finished 14-11 ahead.

But after the interval they were rarely able to escape their own half and spent long spells defending against waves of All Blacks attacks that were hampered by the driving rain.

Missing seven British and Irish Lions to injury, Stuart Lancaster's men showed trademark resolve and their refusal to concede defeat until the final whistle was rewarded with a penalty try with seconds remaining.

New Zealand arrived at Twickenham with a remarkable record of having lost just twice in 39 Tests since winning the 2011 World Cup, but they looked anything but 1/3 match favourites as England raced into the lead after just three minutes.

Two missed passes from a line-out created half an opening for May and the lightening-fast Gloucester wing seized his chance by racing around Smith and Dagg to cross in the left corner.

A stunning try was made all the more remarkable given that May made 84-cap veteran Smith, probably the game's best outside centre and a rock solid defender, look like a novice.

England's brilliant start continued with May threatening a second try until Dagg intervened and number eight Billy Vunipola being stopped just short of the line on two occasions.

The All Blacks were rattled and but for better hands from Mike Brown their line would have been breached again as Kyle Eastmond sought to exploit an overlap.

By the 10th minute they had composed themselves and ran in a controversial try through Cruden, made possible by Kieran Read's bullet pass to lock Sam Whitelock.

Cruden appeared to fall short and spill the ball forward before grounding it, but referee Nigel Owens awarded the score immediately instead of referring it to the TMO and replays on the big screen were met with boos.

Farrell landed two penalties before England lost Courtney Lawes after the second row took a blow to the head, resulting in George Kruis making his debut off the bench.

Cruden was on target with three points and New Zealand built pressure, with Cruden's classy off-load to Sonny Bill Williams a dangerous moment, but England scrambled superbly.

The match rattled along at a fast pace, Cruden adding a second penalty before England won a turnover that ended with Richie McCaw being penalised at the breakdown, enabling Farrell to nudge Stuart Lancaster's men into a 14-11 half-time lead.

The advantage lasted only five minutes of the second half when New Zealand expertly exploited a crumbling defence. Marauding prop Owen Franks punched a hole in midfield before the ball was spun left, with Dagg sending McCaw over for the simplest of tries as debutant Rokoduguni attempted to defend a three on one overlap.

A tight encounter made way for a dominant third quarter from New Zealand, who began to find space with increasing regularity.

All Blacks hooker Dane Coles was sent to the sin-bin for lashing out with a boot on the ground after being pulled by Dylan Hartley, but still England were unable to escape their own half.

Julian Savea, the scorer of eight tries in four matches against the Red Rose, knocked on as the line beckoned, a victim of the increasingly heavy rain that was falling.

Beauden Barrett missed a penalty from in front of the posts, but after Williams ran through a tackle by Farrell, the substitute fly-half had a second chance from a similar position and this time was successful.

It was only a matter of time until England's line cracked again and it was substitute Charlie Faumuina who drove over after waves of attacks, although England had the final say when Owens gave a penalty try after the All Blacks had pulled down a maul.

Richie McCaw dives over to score New Zealand's second try at a rain-soaked Twickenham © Getty Images
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