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Player Ratings: England

OPINION: England will leave Dunedin knowing they had a very real chance to earn their first win against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil in 21 years, but ultimately fell 16-15 as the hosts were able to grind their way to a win. But it was a Test match that could have gone either way.

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Goal-kicking, scrummaging and speed at the breakdown are the areas Steve Borthwick will know England need to work on this week, but there were plenty of positives for the head coach.

There were a handful of players that were unlucky to be on the losing side, and may have a point to prove next week in Auckland.

Here’s how the players rated:

15. George Furbank – 8
A near-faultless display in the backfield from the Saint, and summed up England’s attitude. Strong carries from deep and some monstrous tackles- particularly on Rieko Ioane early on. Was put under a late aerial onslaught by the All Blacks, but stood up to the challenge doggedly. Did not deserve to be a loser, like many of his teammates.

14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso – 7
Learned early on that the All Blacks were going to test England’s blitz defence from anywhere, at any time, so was called upon to make some vital defensive reads. Threatening either side of the ball all evening and bagged his try to complete what was a team effort.

13. Henry Slade – 6
Defending in the No.13 channel in England’s system is an unenviable task, and inevitably it is not always going to flatter a player but Slade showed what a canny operator he is in the midfield. A performance shy of the offensive impact the Exeter Chief would have wanted to make, but the All Blacks are never going to allow swashbuckling rugby.

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12. Ollie Lawrence – 7
Yet again exhibited why he is so much more than just a bruising No.12 with a well-rounded performance in the midfield. Counter-rucked, stripped, jackaled for a variety of turnovers. His probing grubber kick set the platform for England’s first try from the ensuing lineout, showing there is plenty of subtlety to his game.

11. Tommy Freeman – 5
The All Blacks’ two tries were on his wing and though he was severely isolated for the opening cross-field kick score, his positioning was poor for the second- although he would have expected Ben Earl to latch onto Stephen Perofeta. That can lead to players trying to force it a bit too much, which was the case at the Forsyth Barr Stadium and led to a knock-on soon after in what was a promising position for England. He was, however, able to iron out many issues after the break, and came off his wing nicely in the second 40.

10. Marcus Smith – 5
Inexcusable miss in front of the posts early in the second half, but bounced back immediately with some passes timed to absolute perfection as England scored their second try. After being penned back in the first half due to New Zealand’s territorial supremacy, he was able to express himself much more after the break as England gained more control. Unfortunately, two kicks from five are the statistics that can define Test matches, and that proved to be the case in Dunedin.

9. Alex Mitchell – 6
Kicked sharply to bring his chasers into the game and sniped around the breakdown to test the All Blacks defence on plenty of occasions. A vital cog defensively, particularly in wider channels against a team that had plenty of desire to move the ball.

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1. Joe Marler – 5
Scrum penalty won with five minutes on the clock in his battle with Tyrel Lomax, but found himself marching backwards a few minutes later. Left the field injured before 20 minutes had elapsed.

2. Jamie George – 6
Produced a lineout throw that can be labelled ‘comically bad’, but England would not have seen the funny side as the All Blacks were given the platform to score their opener. A whopping 15 tackles in the first half alone is precisely how any captain would want to lead by example.

3. Will Stuart – 6
Manhandled after ten minutes by Ethan de Groot at the scrum, albeit by fairly dubious scrummaging. Got his revenge early in the second half as the scrum decision went his way, which should have allowed England to take the lead with the ensuing penalty, before leaving the field after 50 minutes.

4. Maro Itoje – 8
Ripped the ball from Mark Telea seconds into the match and that sent a message as to what was to come. A menace at the breakdown not only by turning the ball over but by slowing the All Blacks down. Too quick for the All Blacks’ defence when he swooped for the try line from close quarters as the visitors responded to some early pressure. Put the All Blacks’ lineout under immense pressure in the second half, which sabotaged many chances the hosts would have had to exert some pressure.

5. George Martin – 7
Showed exactly why Borthwick picks him with a freakish counter ruck from a lying position in the opening 40. Imposing in the tight, putting his granite shoulders to good use. Forging a brilliant partnership in the second row with Maro Itoje.

6. Chandler Cunningham-South – 7
Representing the country of his birth against the country he spent most of his youth in, and every England fan will be ecstatic the 21-year-old will be donning white for many years to come.

Maro Itoje may have opened the scoring for England, but it was Chandler Cunningham-South’s burst towards the line the phase before that allowed his lock the chance to pounce. Went up another gear in his ten-minute stint in the second half before being replaced- chased kicks and tackled hard. Had a hand in the second try, as he glided through a gap created by fellow Quin Marcus Smith in the build-up to Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s finish. May have left some viewers bemused that he was removed so early, as England seemed to lack his punchy presence.

7. Sam Underhill – 5.5
The England openside has produced some of his career-best performances against the All Blacks, but this was maybe not a vintage defensive display by him. Not that he necessarily did anything wrong, but just quieter than usual. Was tasked with putting Damian McKenzie under pressure, which was an intriguing battle.

8. Ben Earl – 5.5
Missed a tackle anyone associated with England would have expected him to make on Perofeta in Ardie Savea’s try. One very costly error, but that’s all it takes at this level. England’s go-to man to crash into defenders in an epic battle with his counterpart Savea.

Replacements: 

16. Theo Dan – 5
Was not able to make the impact from the bench that Borthwick would have wanted, but he was not the only replacement to suffer that fate. Summed up how England lost the ‘bench battle’ with the All Blacks.

17. Fin Baxter – 6
An early replacement for clubmate Joe Marler to earn his first cap. A costly neck roll when England were set up in the All Blacks’ 22 before half time, though he could feel a little hard done by. Was able to make an impression with ball in hand, which is a crucial part of his game, but there’s no hiding from the fact that England’s scrum did struggle.

18. Dan Cole – 5
Picked off in the scrum in the final ten minutes.

19. Alex Coles – 5
A no-arms tackle in the final ten could have allowed the hosts to extend to a four-point lead, but for McKenzie being timed-out.

20. Tom Curry – 5
Was possibly called upon to help remedy England’s issues at the breakdown where the All Blacks were slightly quicker to the draw at times and were able to secure many turnovers. Penalised within minutes of coming on as his over-enthusiasm at the ruck maybe boiled over.

21. Ben Spencer – 4
Looked like the perfect player to shepherd England to a victory when coming on, but was unable to help regain control when the hosts crept into the lead.

22. Fin Smith – 5
Had 15 minutes to take England over the line, but it was ultimately a stint where England were largely defending.

23. Ollie Sleightholme – N/A
Came on for his debut, but was only given a handful of minutes.

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