'Daniel Carter has it all'
'England had no cutting edge'
The world's papers are unanimous in their verdict of New Zealand's 23-19 victory over England at Twickenham – 'an epic'. And they are pretty sure who the star of the show was – the 'sublime' Daniel Carter. But opinions were divided as to the actual worth of England's efforts and the role of the officials…
Easy winners over Wales and Ireland, the world's number-one rugby power needed all their fabled resolve and class to hold off England, who could not convert the advantage of an extra man for fully 20 minutes in the closing stages into the try they needed for an upset.
This was England's best performance since their win over South Africa last winter and evidence enough that their rehabilitation after the post-World Cup torpor is on track – in the pack, at least. They were intermittently magnificent and, after it looked as if the All Blacks would overrun them early in the second half, fought back to dominate by the end.
However, England's weakness is so glaring it has to be addressed sooner rather than later if Andy Robinson's team are to have realistic hopes of challenging New Zealand at the World Cup. The backs simply lack edge and creativity. Charlie Hodgson is a fine, flat passer of the ball, but it all comes to nought once it hits the three-quarter line. England need someone to fill the void left by the quick-stepping Jason Robinson.
– Kevin Mitchell, The Observer
He went to the pocket too often and too fast in my opinion and nearly ruined what was a damned good game … England were committing the same type of offences but the ref didn't seem to be wearing the sort of glasses that spotted those.
England could have won this match but for two factors – they looked out of condition and just did not have the skill factor out wide.
Halfback Matt Dawson was slow on the pass and the passing got slower the wider the ball went. The All Blacks just hunted them down out wide in a fine defensive display.
Up front, they started superbly and the drive-over try was very well worked and really put the All Blacks on the back foot. But they didn't seem to have the condition to carry it on. They were puffing and blowing not long afterwards and the All Blacks were so fit and conditioned that they held them reasonably comfortably, even with 13 men.
There's no point having power if you haven't got the conditioning to go with it.
– Richard Lowe, New Zealand Herald
What is very exciting as a New Zealand fan, and scary for the rest of the rugby world, is that this is a young team with a lot of leaders across the field and they are maturing very fast. I don't see this team having to worry about peaking too early for the 2007 World Cup. They will only get better. The question is whether the rest of the world can stay with them.
Yesterday it was very clear that there was a marked difference in both the pace at which the All Blacks played when they were able to hold onto the ball and the power they brought both on attack and defence.
The game demonstrated All Black rugby's whole philosophy and commitment to what we, in 1987, called the three Ps – pace, power and precision, which equals pressure.
That pace, power and precision has been a hallmark of All Black rugby and this team more than ever before are taking it to a new dimension.
– Michael Jones, The Daily Telegraph
England produced their finest performance by far since the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. They displayed power and intensity in the second half before a crowd of 62,000 at Twickenham, which became increasingly and noisily hopeful of a famous home win. They shook New Zealand to the core and exposed weaknesses in the All Black ranks which have lain unsuspected in their recent and glorious run of success. And yet in the end, it was just not enough.
– Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times
England can be proud of the blood and sweat, the sheer dogged refusal to let the All Blacks settle into any sort of rhythm, but they will reflect longer on the creative vacuum behind the scrum.
In truth, their backs never looked like penetrating the black wall in front of them. For that, [Charlie] Hodgson has to take his share of the blame. His kicking was a match for the deadliest left boot in the game, a reflection of his growing confidence; his decision-making less certain.
Compare and contrast with Carter, nominated the man of the match for two moments of brilliance, the only two of the match as it happened, and a Wilkinsonesque relish of the tackle.
There is no manual to explain it, no diagram to chart it, Carter’s instinctive eye for a break is honed perhaps on the field behind his house in the small town of Southbridge, where he would play after school until darkness fell, but it is still wonderfully unteachable.
– Andrew Longmore, The Sunday Times
Once again England turned the screw but could not exploit a considerable advantage, not only in terms of possession but also in numbers as the All Blacks lost three forwards, two of them props, to the sin-bin in the second half. However well the forwards waged war and despite another assured display by Charlie Hodgson, England had no cutting edge in midfield and nobody to match the subtle genius of Daniel Carter.
– Tim Glover, The Independent
How to stop Daniel Carter? It will be foremost in the minds of international coaches from now until the 2007 World Cup. England eventually had a pretty good idea how to cope with the New Zealand outside-half – do not let him have the ball. The trouble was by then the damage had been done. World's best player? I think so.
After a fine England start and some uncharacteristic All Black errors, Carter took a poor pass over his head from a standing start. He looked up, saw what was ahead of him defensively and liked what he saw. The vision to see the daylight; the pace to exploit it and Carter was off. A lovely pass to his captain Tana Umaga and a try for New Zealand. Sublime.
Carter has it all – he is the consummate all-round No 10.
– Ieuan Evans, The Daily Telegraph
England can take much heart from this defeat.
After the sterile encounter last week against Australia, this was a real Test match – a thunderous meeting of bone and mind.
Head coach Andy Robinson had said in the build-up that it would show England where they stood just two years out from the defence of their World Cup.
So it did. If New Zealand are undoubtedly the best team in rugby right now then England have time and a gathering sense of progress which suggests they will not be too far away come October 2007.
– Evening Post, Wales
It was just as well that England's forwards scored because their back line never looked like coming close. Time and again their lack of pace, vision and most importantly, creativity in the midfield was exposed. Their two centres will run through brick walls for the cause but England would give their eye teeth for a playmaker with Carter's vision.
The All Blacks are averaging 40 points a game this season, yet in a few Tests they have operated on limited possession.
They have this uncanny ability to appear to be treading water, only to snaffle turnover ball deep in their own territory, then go the length of the field to touch down.
It is the way that they play. They look to force teams wide, and back themselves to get to the breakdown first. With so much speed and athleticism in their back row, they so often do get their hands on the ball, and set runners such as Joe Rokocoko and Rico Gear loose on a broken defence.
– Scotland on Sunday
Each was justified, but seemed to lift the All Blacks who, inspired by a magnificent display of tackling from Jerry Collins, Rodney So'oialo, Byron Kelleher and Tana Umaga, kept their line in tact.
England, whose pack had arm wrestled with the All Blacks all afternoon, took control of the ball and camped in the All Blacks half, but a lack of skill and imagination played as big a part in their lack of success as New Zealand's defence.
Rather than cross for what might have been match winning tries, England could score only through the boot of first five-eighth Charlie Hodgson who contributed 14 of England's 19 points.
They have won test matches that way in the past – notably in Wellington two years ago – but it was not going to be enough in London yesterday.
This was a hard fought win by the All Blacks, especially as it was achieved with their attacking prowess effectively suffocated.
It lack the fizz and froth of Ireland and Wales, but there was so much more substance to this win that it was even more satisfying than the victories in Dublin and Cardiff.
– The Dominion Post, New Zealand
In the second half, New Zealand often acted as if it believed the only way it could stop England's forwards was illegally.
The English were no saints. After spending the week complaining that the All Blacks ran illegal interference to create gaps for ball carriers, the English crudely and blatantly obstructed when the ball went out to the backs. Even so, they could not create any holes.
England cannot match New Zealand's skills, but like South Africa, which beat New Zealand in Cape Town earlier this year, it showed that the All Blacks can be rattled by a physical foe. The seeds of doubt have been sown. If England can just find a spark of creativity, it could reap a dividend in the World Cup. New Zealand has two years to worry that when the pressure is on, the old fissures will appear.
– Peter Berlin, International Herald Tribune