Wellington – The All Blacks' humbling 38-21 defeat at the hands of England “ruined” their European tour and took the shine off a successful season, New Zealand press reports said Sunday.
The world champions' run of 20 Tests without defeat was brought to a shuddering halt by a rampant home side at Twickenham on Saturday, who recorded their record margin of victory and biggest score against the All Blacks.
“We don't have an excuse Ä we just got beaten by a better side,” said coach Steve Hansen, whose team were vastly more experienced that the England line-up.
But Fairfax rugby correspondent Liam Napier said the performance was a “sour way” to end the year and was comparable to a first-year student turning the tables on the head prefect.
It was the All Blacks' first loss on their end-of-year northern tour in a decade and their first defeat this year but Napier said the “timid display ruined the European tour, tainted their season”.
He questioned whether the “fallout and claims of thuggery” following Andrew Hore's five-week suspension for striking Wales lock Bradley Davies the previous week had affected the team.
There was a distinct lack of physicality and aggression in the collisions, the All Blacks were bullied at the breakdown and “pinned up against the wall by a raw and inexperienced English side. It was astonishing to watch.”
Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Wynne Gray said the result turned a strong season into one with some doubts as the All Blacks “felt the cold fear of failure”.
They were beaten at their own game as “England put a hammerlock on the All Blacks progress and never relented.
“They squeezed with their big men, taking the venom out of the All Blacks so much they made several decisive defensive blunders.”
Gray said England won the crucial battle up front where they were “direct, rugged and bludgeoning. They drove their lineout ball and showed a taut scrum which sapped much of the All Blacks vigour.”
Radio New Zealand said the All Blacks were outplayed in every department but noted that most of the team had been affected by a stomach bug earlier in the week.
Twenty-one-year-old England fly-half Owen Farrell was one of the England stars, with his intelligent reading of the game and contribution of 17 points – an eye-opener for the New Zealand writers.
Both Fairfax Media and the New Zealand Herald produced columns, written before the Test, questioning Farrell's right to be included among the nominees for the International Rugby Board Player of the Year award alongside All Blacks Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and Frenchman Frederic Michalak.
“What he is doing on this list is way beyond me,” Former All Blacks prop Richard Loe wrote in his Herald column.
“It smacks of a political statement rather than a sensible assessment of the world's best players through 2012,” Fairfax said. – Sapa-AFP