New Zealand 28-27 England, 2nd Test
Hansen hails Ben Smith's performance
Tom Hamilton at Forsyth-Barr Stadium
June 14, 2014
Ma'a Nonu's try killed off any hope of an England fightback © Getty Images
All Blacks Steve Hansen praised Ben Smith's man-of-the-match performance against England in the wake of their 28-27 win on Saturday in Dunedin.
Smith scored New Zealand's first try and was a constant menace as he rarely put a foot wrong throughout the match. He also put in a key try-saving tackle on Manu Tuilagi in the last few minutes of the first-half in what was his first Test start at fullback.
"The running down of Manu was sensational because it was from there we stole the ball and managed to get up, build an attack and kick the penalty," Hansen said. "His all-round game was very good and he mirrored what he has been doing in Super Rugby at fullback. He's been waiting a long time to get an opportunity and he seized it."
For New Zealand, they have now sewn up the series with one game to go in Hamilton next Saturday. Hansen was delighted with their win and said it was a level up on last week's win at Eden Park.
"I think we played better, there's no doubt about that. I don't know if we played as well as we possibly can but we played a lot better than last week and we needed to. It was a great Test match and sometimes games like this are built up and they don't meet expectations but tonight's did.
"Both teams played positively and threw the ball around a bit and no one would have been left having not been satisfied by what they saw."
With the World Cup just one year away, there will be plenty of attention on how the top teams are faring and Hansen was impressed with England.
"Traditionally South Africa's been one of the great rivals for New Zealand rugby and they still are. Australia are as well. England have always been someone we have enjoyed playing and in the contests that have come with them. They are right up there now. Whenever you have a true contest between two teams, it is enjoyable. We've got a lot of respect for them and we enjoy playing them."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.