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All Blacks scrape through at home

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Monday, June 09, 2014

AUCKLAND - A scratchy All Blacks side have survived a scare to down England 20-15 in Auckland in the opening match of their three-Test rugby series.

It took until three minutes from time for New Zealand to score the decisive try, and the game's only touchdown, through centre Conrad Smith.

It came after the scores were locked 15-15 and the All Blacks had a penalty 40-metres out.

They decided to run the ball, and substitute prop Wyatt Crockett came up inches short, before Smith went over from the ensuing scrum.

The margin of victory at Eden Park went against predictions of a one-sided contest.

England weren't fielding their top line-up, with players arriving late from last weekend's English Premiership final being rested.

But the All Blacks weren't helped by continual errors, including regularly spilling the high ball.

They didn't take the lead until the 69th minute after a big break by lock Brodie Retallick, who showed great pace before being tackled by winger Marland Yarde.

Welsh referee Nigel Owens then showed Yarde a yellow card for not releasing.

Five-eighth Aaron Cruden kicked his fifth penalty to make the score 15-12.

But Danny Cipriani, on as a substitute for his first Test in six years, landed a penalty to tie up the game with six minutes to go.

Traditionally slow starters, the All Blacks struggled for rhythm in the opening spell.

England skipper Chris Robshaw was prominent in the early stages and his break in the first minute led to the visitors getting on the scoreboard through a penalty to five-eighth Freddie Burns.

England were solid up the middle and the All Blacks best early chances came out wide, with winger Cory Jane's kick into the in-goal just eluding fullback Israel Dagg.

Burns and Cruden both kicked three penalties to make the score 9-9 before the All Blacks were called in to some scrambling defence just before halftime.

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith provided some moments of spark in the second spell, including in the 54th minute.

His kick and chase from a scrum almost brought a try, but No. 8 Jerome Kaino knocked on when trying to gather.

Burns and Cruden again traded penalties, before Retallick's break and Yarde's sinbinning.


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