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England v All Blacks.
A sunny day, mild for November, was what we woke up to on Saturday. A short bus ride into Twickenham, sat across from our first All Blacks fan and we were on our way to the most hotly anticipated game of the Autumn Internationals 2018.
Twickenham was busy, queues out of restaurant doors, busy pubs, hawkers and touts. Flags flying over shops fronts and music blaring into the street. Game day at the home of English Rugby is a very unique experience.
Just as we arrived at the security search point the skies darkened and the first drops of what would be an all afternoon deluge began. We were seated high up in the ground, almost the very last row of seats, which afforded great cover from the pouring rain and an excellent bird’s eye view of the game.
Predictably there wasn’t a seat to be had, the noise was already building as a four year wait came down to the last few minutes. The crowd belted out Jerusalem, joining opera star Laura wright in lifting the atmosphere to fever pitch. The game fell on Remembrance weekend and a wreath was laid to the fallen by The Duke of Sussex and the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. Twickenham fell pin drop silent as the two minute pause was marked impeccably. The same was not to happen during the Haka, the English crowd raising their voices in Swing Low to counter the Maori war dance, rounds of applause greeting its conclusion.
Garces took the centre of the park and following the heart beats that signalled game time, blew his whistle and the game was away. It was immediately evident that England had come out for a fight and would run the All Blacks all the way. Chris Ashton making his first start in the Red Rose with a try in the 3rd minute, sneaking under Damien Mackenzie to cross the whitewash, Farrell failed to convert instead hitting the upright. However he made up for it with an outstanding drop goal not long after.
England’s forwards coach would have been delighted with the next try, an exquisite rolling maul off the top of a quality line out. Dylan Hartley showing his class and determination to remain in contention for a spot in next year’s Rugby World Cup. This time Farrell slotted the two points. Sadly those were the last points England were to make all game.
New Zealand had battled back through the lightning footwork and speed of the smiling assassin Mackenzie to bring the score to 15-16, Barrett finding the uprights when needed. The pace of the game was electric, the crowd roaring all the way through trying to carry the boy’s home. They thought they were there when the monster that is Sam Underhill turned Beauden Barrett inside out and crossed in the dying moments, but the try was disallowed following a much contested Lawes offside. England weren’t to take advantage of a beautifully positioned Farrell or Ford to smash the much need drop goal which would have been enough to see the mighty All Blacks vanquished. Truly thought this was a test match for the ages, every man turned up and did his job. Jones can take this experience forward to building England towards Japan 2019.