Returning to the bar at half time, the excited chitter-chatter of the amassed crowd are as one in their disbelief of the score. Admittedly all the points scored so far have been from penalties but they’ve not been lucky kicks, England have played determinedly giving away very few errors, let’s hope they keep applying the same sort of pressure in the second half and we could have interesting scoreline on our hands.
We take our seats and wonder whether it’s possible to hold our breaths for the remaining 40 minutes of the match, such is the tension and excitement at being 12-0 up going into the second half, holding our breaths in case we breathe too hard and burst the bubble that has us all on the edge of our seats. We needed be too concerned, within one minute of play, England are awarded a penalty after New Zealand collapse the scrum, and happy just to get more points on the board, we cheer as the ball sails cleanly through the posts to take us 15 point ahead of the opposition, who have yet to get off the mark.
WIth the incredible pace of the game, it doesn’t take long for New Zealand to respond, 5 minutes in fact, and having been awarded a penalty they decide to kick to touch rather than get 3 relatively easy points on the board being only five meters from England’s try line. Within seconds, it seems, the All Blacks are over the line but the agony is prolonged whilst the Referee consults the Video Ref (Football, are you taking note!) to confirm that the player did indeed place the ball. Seconds seem to last like hours whilst we await confirmation, but score they did and with a clean conversion New Zealand are back in the game, 15-7.. Oh lummy!
Spurred on, New Zealand apply the pressure and suddenly the action is taking place in England’s half and despite England meeting them headlong, within another five minutes the opposition are back across the English try line taking the score to a nail biting 15-14.
There are mutterings of concern around the stadium at this sudden turn of events, only twelve minutes into the second half and now New Zealand are within one point of England, that comfortable margin having evaporated. The incredible pace of the game doesn’t leave us too long to ponder our fate as two minutes later sees some incredible play down the wing from England’s Barritt and Tuilagi giving England their first try of the game. We take our five points but the extra two aren’t added as Farrell’s clean sheet is marred when the ball bounces off the crossbar, still we’re 20-14 up and the fat lady isn’t waiting in the wings just yet.
Unbelievable, this can’t be happening – only ninety seconds later sees Chris Ashton return to form as he swallow-dives across the line for another English try… we’re now 25-14 ahead, I certainly didn’t envisage this on my way to the match.
Ten minutes pass, the game incredibly physical, and just when it looks like New Zealand are going to make a run for our try line, Tuilagi intercepts the ball and powers across the line unchallenged, none of us quite believing how well England are play, least of all the All Blacks.
With the score now at 32-14 (let’s just reflect on that for a second, 32-14.. sounds good doesn’t it), New Zealand are now the ones on a back foot and the pressure shows, within minutes they’ve conceded another penalty which takes us 21 points clear – three converted tries in other words. The score doesn’t, as you can imagine Dear Reader, remain stationary for very long, after 9 minutes of battling, England are awarded another chance to get points on the board, Burns steps up to take the kick which he successfully kicks, taking England to 35-14.
Five minutes from the end, England’s Vunipola is given the yellow card for trying to halt a New Zealand quick tap, and is sent to the sin bin for his statutory ten minutes time out.. well, we won’t see him again. Down to 14 men, and despite there being little time left, this could be dangerous for England, and sure enough New Zealand are quick to capitalise with a converted try and the lead is reduced to only 17 points but we now have only three minutes left.
New Zealand have the bit between their collective teeth now and keep applying the pressure in England’s half. Ninety seconds, and the ball is approaching England’s try line. Twenty seconds, we all hold our breath. Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six – in unison, the crowd are counting down wishing time would speed up – five, four, three, two, one. We have to wait for the ball to go out of play before we can start to celebrate but we now know there’s no way New Zealand can win. The Ref blows his whistle to signify the end of the match and the stadium erupts, none of us quite believing what we’ve just witnessed. The first win over the All Blacks since 2003, the margin having broken a record set in 1936 when England beat them 13-0. Astounding.. I’m going to need another drink to steady my nerves (but I don’t when I see the queues!)