All Blacks v England: Yellow card turns comfortable NZ win into desperate draw

The All Blacks have coughed up a 19-point lead in the final 10 minutes, but held on to a desperate draw against fast-finishing England at Twickenham.

After a rollercoaster year, New Zealand did more than enough to win their season-ending test, dominating most of the contest from the start, but ill-discipline - one of their big issues throughout the campaign - was almost their undoing again.

Ahead 25-6, fullback Beauden Barrett committed a professional foul, refusing to release England first-five Marcus Smith just centimetres from the tryline. As he exited the game, referee Mathieu Raynal reviewed a possible try and found the ball forced on the line for an England try.

Marcus Smith in action for England
Marcus Smith in action for England. Photo credit: Photosport

That opened the floodgates, as a tiring, shorthanded All Blacks side suddenly could not contain a home side now intent on running the ball at every opportunity. Further tries to fullback Freddie Steward and replacement prop Will Stuart quickly closed the margin, with Smith's conversion levelling the scores with seconds remaining.

England had a chance to push for victory, after securing the final kickoff, but Smith hoofed to touch, happy with the draw.  

All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock admits the result feels like a loss.

"We wanted to come out here and win, and we didn't do that," he said. "We were really good for the first 60, and then just shut up shop and forgot to play.

"It just shows that teams just don't go away and England did that tonight - they didn't go away. It went in swings and roundabouts - we had the momentum at the start, and they came back and squeezed us a bit.

"They probably didn't get the reward on the scoreboard, but it shows when they had they momentum at the end, they were scoring tries."

The NZ camp was obviously bewildered by England's refusal to go for the win, when they had the tourists at their mercy.

The All Blacks stamped their superiority early, with flanker Dalton Papali'i brilliantly anticipating England halfback Jack van Poortvilet's clearing pass from a lineout, plucking it out of midair and sprinting away for the opening try.

Moments later, hooker Codie Taylor scored from a patented close-range lineout maul and New Zealand led 14-0 after 10 minutes.

The margin could have been more, after No.8 Ardie Savea harrassed van Poortvilet at a defensive lineout, the All Blacks gained possession and centre Rieko Ioane dived over between the posts.

But referee Mathieu Raynal - who presided with his usual ponderous attention to detail - found a high tackle from Ioane in the build-up and disallowed the try. 

England had chances to respond, but could not crack the NZ defence, which showed a knack for winning breakdown penalties on their own goal-line. Respective goal-kickers Owen Farrell and Jordie Barrett exchanged penalties and the visitors led 17-3 at halftime.

Soon after the restart, Smith slotted another penalty to close the margin, but Ioane finally got his try, when England again turned the ball over in the attacking 22 and Beauden Barrett provided a pinpoint crosskick to set his centre on an 80-metre sprint to score.

Dalton Papali'i and Rieko Ioane celebrate a try against England
Dalton Papali'i and Rieko Ioane celebrate a try against England. Photo credit: Photosport

At 22-6, the All Blacks were cruising and when Beauden Barrett accidentally slotted a close-range drop goal under penalty advantage, their lead seemed unassailable. All that changed within seconds, when he was shown yellow.

"Seventy minutes in control and 10 minutes, when there was combination of the yellow card and that fired them up," reflected coach Ian Foster. "They got a lot of quick ball and we got passive for some reason.

"Frustrating, but you've got to give them a bit of credit for coming back. It was a draw we probably let slip, but there was a lot of good rugby in there and we're pretty proud of it."

NZ 25 (Papali'i, Ioane & Taylor tries; J Barrett 2 conversions & penalty, B Barrett drop goal) England 25 (Stuart, Steward & George tries; Farrell penalty, Smith penalty & 2 conversions)