The England captain, Owen Farrell, insisted it was the right decision to take the draw rather than go for the win against New Zealand after his side’s thrilling comeback ensured honours ended even amid boos from the Twickenham crowd at the final whistle.
England were trailing 25-6 with 10 minutes to go and had been thoroughly outplayed by the inspired All Blacks before three tries – two for the replacement prop Will Stuart either side of one from Freddie Steward – brought the home side level at 25-25.
Eddie Jones’s side had been given a helping hand by Beauden Barrett’s 71st-minute yellow card but despite England’s numerical advantage and the momentum being with them, Marcus Smith kicked the ball out after the last restart to take the draw.
The All Blacks’ head coach, Ian Foster, admitted he was “surprised” England did not keep playing for the win and said: “If we flipped it over I would have liked our guys to have a crack.” But Farrell insisted: “I think it depended where we had the ball. It’s a difficult place to go from.
“They had bodies piling in, we had men out. It was the right decision. They came out firing, we added errors on errors like the first game against Argentina. It didn’t feel like we were far off, to be honest, just one or two per cent. But against New Zealand that’s a lot.”
Jones, meanwhile, was adamant that his players had his full trust in making the call. “It is always up to the players,” he said. “I trust their decision-making, I am not on the field, I don’t have access to them so I just trust their decision.
“We are disappointed we did not win but a draw is a draw. When you get absolutely pulverised by them, like we were in the first half, you have to stay in the fight or you get blown away.
“New Zealand were superb in the first half. They were aggressive, sharp around the ruck and we just had to hang in there, and we hung in there and put the pressure back on them. The first 20 minutes of the second half I thought we were the dominant team but things didn’t stick. All of a sudden someone blows some magic dust and the passes start to click, our lines are a bit sharper and the finishers come on and improve the game we wanted to play.”
England’s bench proved pivotal with David Ribbans, Mako Vunipola, Stuart and Ben Youngs all making considerable impacts. Youngs replaced his Leicester club-mate Jack van Poortvliet, who had a torrid match on his second Twickenham start. Youngs, however, backed the 21-year-old to bounce back and also believes taking the draw was the right call.
“I’m sure people would have said we should have run it, but that’s not how it works,” he said. “You run it, get jackalled, they kick the three and everyone goes: ‘You should have kicked it out.’ Sometimes a draw feels like a loss, and sometimes it feels like a win. We’re in between both at the moment. If there were a couple more minutes on the clock we would probably not have kicked it out, but you play the situation.
“Jack’s a wonderful player, he’s learning each game and today was a huge test for him. He’ll come through the other side and he’ll be even better for it. He’s got a magnificent future and an old head on young shoulders.
“He’ll get back to work on Monday and if I can help in any way I will. He’s having a great start to his international career and today he played against the All Blacks for the first time.”