I don’t imagine anyone believed that England would beat New Zealand, it was more a question of how much they would lose by and would they show any real potential beginning to develop.
New Zealand, on the other hand, would not only have been expecting to win, but would have been hoping to get back to the sort of slick performance that has eluded them this year.
In terms of real world expectations, then, one could argue that it was a narrow victory for the men in white.
The Kiwis were frequently knocked back, Carter had a poor day by his standards and the win, while comfortable, was far from a try-fest.
England were way better than in their previous two games. Part of this was due to better selection – especially Cueto at fullback - but there also seemed to be more energy and desire in the performance. Certainly, England were a lot sharper than they have been recently.
Unfortunately, this is as positive a spin as any England PR could put on events. An holistic analysis clearly shows that there was only ever going to be one winner.
Only one team looked capable of crossing the try line. Only one defence was constantly being tested. The stats said it all: England had to make nearly twice as many tackles as the All Blacks.
Despite the massive improvements in just about every part of their game, England still lack a cutting edge in the backs. There were some positive signs: running the ball from their own territory; the odd switch move; faster delivery from rucks and mauls. A breakthrough never looked likely but I guess credit should be given for some kind of positive intent.
Facing the New Zealand backline – who themselves are nowhere near their best form – highlighted the plodding naivety of the English attack. Where the Kiwis were flat, quick to form up and adept at switching plays to outflank the opposition, England were deep and predictable.
I’d be happy to put the English pack up against any other in the world – they’re not the best, but they are pretty good and provide a platform from which England should be able to win games. The backs, however, are just not up to scratch, ranking well below the Tri Nations, France, Ireland and Wales.
South African referee Jonathan Kaplan had a good game. I particularly appreciated the way he pounced at the first signs of nastiness, nipping it in the bud. I do think that Tim Payne, the English prop, deserved a yellow card for his punches, but that aside Kaplan is to be congratulated.