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England convincingly ends All Blacks' 20-test unbeaten run

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Associated Press
12/1/2012 12:34:47 PM
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TWICKENHAM, England -- New Zealand has finally lost, convincingly upset by a record 38-21 to England in scarcely believable scenes at Twickenham on Saturday.

England, the 17-point underdog, scored first from a penalty in the 26th minute and was never headed. The All Blacks roared from 15-0 behind after halftime with two converted tries in three minutes to close within one point, and looked set to extend an unbeaten run of 20 tests over the past 16 months.

But England, criticized after recent losses to Australia and South Africa for a lack of composure and creativity, stunned the visitors by unleashing three tries to post its biggest thrashing of New Zealand in 107 years. This ended a run of nine straight losses to the All Blacks since 2003.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen hailed England as a potential World Cup winner when it hosts in 2015.

"There were two teams capable of winning the World Cup out there," he said. "No excuses, we got beaten by the better side. This is a good England side. You should get behind them and back them a bit. They have shown what they can do, and if you back them it will make them even more dangerous.

"They thoroughly deserved their victory and should be proud of what they have achieved with magnificent football. They took the game to us from the get-go, full credit to them."

Nobody saw this coming. These world champion All Blacks were being talked about as one of their best sides, up there with predecessors from the late 1960s and late 1980s. They hadn't lost a test in Europe in five years, and enjoyed a massive glut in experience of almost four times as many caps as England put out.

But the tyros in white were sharper, smarter and hungrier on Saturday -- and finished off the All Blacks with a touch of swagger.

"People had written us off," England captain Chris Robshaw said. "That fuelled the fire. Everyone ran out there and believed we could do it. We had a bit of luck. We had the bounce of the ball, but to beat the world champions you need a bit of that."

Nobody was cooler than Owen Farrell, the flyhalf whose nomination this week for world player of the year was as much a shock to him as anyone else. His goalkicking gave England the points to complement its fearless confidence against an All Black side that was struck by a virus during the week and struggled to get going in the first half. New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said the sickness wasn't an excuse.

"We just struggled to get into the game," McCaw said. "We were on the back foot and put under pressure. Even when we got back in the game, they didn't panic. I was impressed with the way they played."

Farrell compensated for woeful tactical kicking on England's part with perfect goalkicking for a deserved 12-0 lead by halftime by landing three penalties and a dropped goal. England had made most of the play, its defence quickly getting into the New Zealanders' faces to stymie attacks. Also, Farrell's counterpart, Dan Carter, unsurprisingly on the world player shortlist, surprisingly missed two penalty attempts.

The All Blacks hadn't gone to the break that far behind since their last loss, against Australia in Brisbane in August 2011. And defeat seemed assured moments into the new half when Farrell hoofed over a 40-meter kick from the right touchline, after tighthead Alex Corbisiero had forced a penalty from Owen Franks in a scrum.

But two mistakes in play by Farrell helped the All Blacks back into the match with tries in the same left corner to winger Julian Savea, the only starter who wasn't affected by the norovirus, and No. 8 Kieran Read. Carter converted both and at 15-14, the All Blacks were surely going to push on.

It never happened.

Three minutes later, Brad Barritt broke through the defence and played give-and-take with centre partner Manu Tuilagi to touch down. Farrell finally missed a kick at goal, but nobody minded when moments later Tuilagi busted out of two tackles to set up a try for winger Chris Ashton. Farrell missed the conversion again, but England was rampant at 25-14 and getting cocky.

Tuilagi intercepted Read and scooted in from 55 metres out, slowing to a jog and smiling before the tryline. Farrell converted and was substituted to a standing ovation. His replacement, Freddie Burns, added two penalties.

The All Blacks finished with a second try for Savea, his 12th in nine tests, but the hosts successfully defended their tryline in the last play to give coach Stuart Lancaster's players the self-belief that they are on the right path to the World Cup that England will host in 2015.

"The performance was exactly what we had hoped for," Lancaster said. "I'm chuffed for the players. When the tough times came we stayed together. That team belief with a young England side definitely augurs well for the future."

England celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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