7 Nov 2018

Ten greatest moments: All Blacks vs England

4:26 pm on 7 November 2018

There have been 41 matches played between England and the All Blacks and the score stands at 33-7 to New Zealand with one draw. But there have been some great moments in the 110 years of rivalry. We look at some of the best.

All Blacks versus England in 2014

The All Blacks play England in 2014 Photo: Photosport

1905: The Originals

The 15-0, 5 tries to none, demolition was one of a number of extraordinary performances by the first New Zealand national rugby side, "the Originals" on their tour of the British Isles.

It was their third test in three weeks but became known as the benefit match for All Black wing Duncan McGregor. He scored four tries, then worth just three points each. His record for the All Blacks was to stand until 1987 when both John Gallagher and Craig Green scored four each against Fiji at the 1987 Rugby World Cup.

The match was played at Crystal Palace before a then record crowd of at least 50,000, with some crowd estimates being as high as 100,000 - a record for a rugby or football match in London.

The All Blacks were superior, better organised, had better tactics and simply overpowered the English.

It was to set a precedent for much of the rest of the England-New Zealand history of encounters. Generally, the All Blacks have won and won easily, punctuated by occasional English victories.

1936: The Russian prince

For a long time, Prince Alexander Obolensky's first try, against the All Blacks in 1936 was considered the greatest try scored by England. The problem for the All Blacks was that his second try wasn't half bad, either. The Russian prince's two tries set up England's 13-0 win, their first over New Zealand.

Obolensky was also the forerunner of rugby's longest-running dispute; who can play for a country? He was born in St Petersburg and his family fled the Communist Revolution in 1917 when he was just one. They settled in Muswell Hill, London. He was sent to boarding school, where he encountered rugby, and then Oxford where he appears to have done little study but much sport. He was selected for England to play the All Blacks while still technically a Russian citizen, though he became a naturalised British subject two months after the New Zealand test.

In his first try, Obolensky takes the ball and cuts inside wrong-footing all the defence then sprints to the line.

He died in 1940 during training in his RAF Hawker Hurricane.

His two tries were captured on the old Pathe newsreels. What stands out, apart from England running onto the pitch while the All Blacks stalk on, is his speed.

1967: The All Blacks touch greatness

That 1967 All Black team was ahead of its time. Arguably, the best team in world rugby they set out, under coach Fred Allen, to overturn the reputation of rugby to be a battle of dour forward struggles. The aim was running rugby but winning rugby.

And it all came together for a glorious 45 minutes against England. Here's how Alex McKay described it in his book, the Team that Changed Rugby Forever: the 1967 All Blacks.

"At halftime in the first test of the tour, the scoreboard read New Zealand 18, England 5. As the All Blacks took their five-minute break on the Twickenham turf and sucked on the traditional slices of orange, they could rest content.

"Earle Kirton had celebrated his first test cap with two tries. Chris Laidlaw and Bill Birtwistle had scored one apiece. Bob Lyold had crossed for England just before halftime, but so sublimely had the All Blacks played that the game was in danger of turning into a rout.

"The stunned English crowd could only applaud. On the other side of the world, New Zealanders rugged up against the night listened in wonder as Bob Irvine's commentary on Radio 2YA described the glorious carnage. No sooner had the game restarted than Malcolm Dick scored another try for the All Blacks. Five tries in 42 minutes at Twickenham was paradise gained.

"That was as good as it got. The new model All Blacks had arrived, and where better to announce it than the home of rugby?

"Then it all changed. For the 35 minutes until the final whistle blew, the All Blacks laboured and threatened, but scored no more.

"In the end, it was 23-11. The All Blacks had touched glory, held greatness in their hands for 45 minutes before England replied with spirit and determination.

"At the end of the day, there was mutual respect in the handshakes."

Fast forward through the haka, look for the running rugby and the interview with Brian Lochore at the end, who answers the questions of the interviewer. Those were different times.

1973: Who saw this coming?

They lost to Taranaki. They lost to Wellington. The English lost to Canterbury.

They played four matches in New Zealand and one just won. The big one. The test at Eden Park, 16-10.

This was proof that for all the rugby pontification, upsets can happen. It was also part of the once much-discussed lore that bad things happen to the All Blacks in years ending with a three.

1995: Lomu becomes a superstar

Jonah Lomu in action, New Zealand All Blacks v England, rugby world cup, 1995.


It was the making of a superstar. That moment - the moment Lomu runs over Mike Catt - lives on in sporting lore in the way that very very few sporting incidents ever do. It showcased the power of the All Blacks. It made Lomu a superstar, known beyond the small boundaries of rugby, a minority world sport. And, it was to do with genius - and physics.

Clay Wilson, now a reporter for Radio NZ, but then working for Stuff, described the try like this: Lomu hands off opposite wing Tony Underwood and outpaces England centre Will Carling at the 22m line, leaving stranded fullback Catt as the last line of defence.

Staggered by a desperate Carling ankle-tap, Lomu has nowhere to go but directly at the comparatively diminutive England No 15.

It is around 120kg in close to full flight versus around 80kg with not an ounce of momentum. Physics is physics, and there would only be one winner.

What is it they say? Momentum equals mass x velocity.

And this was just one of Lomu's four tries that day as New Zealand beat England 45-29 in the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

And here is Mike Catt remembering his part in that moment.

1998: England's Tour from Hell

It was called the tour from hell. England played seven games and won zero. They took on an impossible tour itinerary - and lost. Much of the side were newcomers. First game up was against Australia in Brisbane. They lost 76-0. They did improve over the next six weeks. By the last game - against South Africa in Cape Town - they lost only 18-0.

And in the middle of it all lay the All Blacks. They had been held to a 26-all draw the year before; it wasn't going to happen again.

The All Blacks had twice scored more than 40 points against England. This was to eclipse that. At Carisbrook, Dunedin, the All Blacks scored 64 points, winning by a margin of 42 points, still their record to this day. Taine Randell, captaining the side for the first time, picked up two tries. So did Christian Cullen and Jeff Wilson with Josh Kronfield and Jonah Lomu picking up one each.

The final score was 64-22. Mind you four days later, the Maori All Blacks nailed a 62-12 win at Rotorua. It certainly was the Tour From Hell. Mind you, as singer Paul Kelly sang of Bradman, "In the darkest hour, the great avenger is being born." Many of this team, including Jonny Wilkinson, would be key components in the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning side.

Best moments?

Check this out: Christian Cullen's brilliant in-field flick to Jeff Wilson, and Taine Randell's try-saving tackle.

2002-3: England's longest winning streak

England have only ever had a single two-test winning streak. The longest All Black streak is nine. But, in their own ways, these two tests in 2002 and 2003 were belters. For England.

The first match, in November at Twickenham, featured an astonishing second half. England went to the break ahead 17-14 and then blitzed the All Blacks in an eight minute scoring burst to go out to 31 points. The All Black fight-back was relentless. This could have turned out to be a famous victory with the All Blacks running at a tiring England side in the closing minutes, but England clung on.

Like it or not, this was a fine performances by Jonny Wilkinson. He even ran the ball and scored a try.

The next encounter in Wellington was almost exactly the opposite. It was windy. It was a terrible spectacle. No-one can remember a single moment from the test. Except that England, reduced to 13 players, just six forwards, somehow held out the All Blacks. At one stage, again and again the All Blacks opted for scrums to try to push back the English. And the English held. At the end of what felt like hours and hours of solid defence, England had won 15-13.

There are no known wonderful rugby moments in this match, just a relentless, relentless physical struggle.

2008: No tries conceded

The All blacks have pulled off the Grand Slam three times - beating the "Home Nations" of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England on one tour.

But this one was special. The All Blacks, trying to atone for their terrible result at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, in which they crashed out in the quarter-finals to France, were triumphant while holding all the Home Unions tryless. They beat Scotland 32-6, Ireland 22-3 and Wales 29-9. England were dispatched 32-6.

England were ill-disciplined where the All Blacks were disciplined. No fewer than four England players were sent to the sin bin.

2012: England rampant

England beat the All Blacks comprehensively 38-21. Let's just leave it to England player turned commentator, Paul Ackford, to sum up:

"Stunning. Just stunning. The best team in world rugby, the best in world sport, some say, smashed by a tidal wave of white. Twickenham has known many great occasions in its long and distinguished history but there have been few to top this.

It wasn't the fact of the victory which was so astonishing, but the manner of it. New Zealand were butchered, hung, drawn and quartered by an England side who played with passion, bite, style and, at long, long last, accuracy."


11.09.2015. London, England. Dan Carter from New Zealand, All Blacks, at the welcome ceremony, held at Tower of London for the upcoming Rugby World Cup finals.

Dan Carter (R) greets a local at the Tower of London Photo: Photosport

2014: Four-in-a-row

The most recent series between England and the All Blacks ended in a whitewash. It was 2014, the year before the All Blacks won their third Rugby World Cup and their opponents would crash out in pool play. While the games were all fairly close - three were decided by five points or fewer - the four games nevertheless all went one way.

New Zealand were triumphant 3-0 in the three test June series and then headed north to repeat the win, 24-21 at Twickenham.

The All Blacks perform the haka during the third rugby test against England at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton during the Steinlager Series - 21 June 2014.

The All Blacks perform the haka before they play England in 2014. Photo: Photosport

Perhaps the best moment came in the opening match at Eden Park. A depleted England side had played well to be 15-all with just three minutes left.

Everyone expected Aaron Cruden to take the easy penalty kick in the dying moments to secure the victory. He didn't. He spun the ball and, eventually, Conrad Smith went over for the game's only try. It was the final uplifting moment in an otherwise tense test.

Much of the rest of the four matches would be played in similar vein.

November 2018

So, so close. The All Blacks edged England 16-15 but did we mention that it was close? England coach Eddie Jones had told his players in white they should be "directors of the movie, not bit-part extras". And the movie turned out to be a thriller.

In the end it came down to one disallowed try.  The All blacks fought back from a terrible start, trailing 0-15. They muscled, hustled and bustled their way back to 16-15 and then came the moment that probably defined the rain-soaked test at Twickenham.

A desperate England made one final lunge. Five minutes from time, Courtney lawes broke from a ruck and charged down a clearing kick from T J Perenara.  Flanker Sam Underhill picked up the ball and somehow managed to wrong-foot Beauden Barrett. He ran 40 metres to score and Twickenham erupted. All to no avail. Ninety seconds later, the Test Match official ruled that Lawes had been offside - he was in front of England's hindmost player at the ruck. The try was overturned and one point it remained.