15. Mike Brown: 7
None of the fireworks of the Six Nations, but then perhaps we have come to judge him by unfeasibly high standards. He fielded the All Blacks’ extensive kicking game well, and more often than not beat the first man when he ran the ball.
14. Marland Yarde: 6
Quiet in attack but solid in defence. The yellow card will split opinion – it was probably the correct call, but should have evened things up, not left England a man short. Worth persevering with, but needs to start translating promise into performances.
13. Manu Tuilagi: 8
England’s most dangerous attacking threat, Tuilagi does things no other player can do. Several strong carries into the heart of the New Zealand midfield tied up countless defenders, and while he gets slated for not offloading enough, more often than not there are three men clinging to him – nigh on impossible conditions to offload from. Shouldn’t be moved to the wing.
12. Kyle Eastmond: 7.5
The rapier to Tuilagi’s sledgehammer, Eastmond took to international rugby like the proverbial duck to water. He was targeted in defence but held up superbly, while with ball in hand he distributed well and made one gorgeous break that showcased his glorious sidestep.
11. Jonny May: 6.5
Signs of progress from the Six Nations – May delivered on his pre-game promise to back himself more often. While he was never fully able to let loose, there were glimpses of his raw pace, and an intelligent kick to the corner in the second half almost led to a try.
10. Freddie Burns: 7
What poor form? Burns looked a different player to the one that has so struggled all year for Gloucester. He kicking intelligently, and while he didn’t run with the ball his distribution was excellent and he brought others into the game well. A 100% place kicking success rate is also hugely impressive, given the pressure he was under.
9. Ben Youngs: 5
It’s not been a good season for Youngs and sadly that continued at Eden Park. He looked suspect in defence on occasion, and his fumble at the back of a breakdown led to the 50 metre Brodie Retallick break that ended in three points and a yellow card for Yarde.
1. Joe Marler: 7.5
Part of an England front row that went superbly well at the set-piece. While he didn’t get his hands on the ball to any great effect, that is a sacrifice most will live with if he can keep scrummaging this well.
2. Rob Webber: 7.5
An excellent performance from Webber, whose added bulk was another reason England’s scrum went so well. Hit every one of his lineouts, too, which, given the circumstances, was hugely impressive.
3. David Wilson: 7
As with Marler, he was superb in the scrum, but Wilson loses a point for several knock-ons in promising positions of attack for England.
4. Joe Launchbury: 6
It just didn’t really happen for Launchbury at Eden Park. There was plenty of endeavour, but he didn’t influence the game as he has in the past and there was some uncharacteristic inaccuracy at the restart.
5. Geoff Parling: 7.5
Parling must take a lot of credit for the superb line-out that England ran, not just on their own ball but also that saw them poach New Zealand’s ball. Didn’t carry much, but his performance presents Lancaster with one of his biggest selection headaches ahead of next week.
6. James Haskell: 7.5
This wasn’t vintage, showboating Haskell, but it was arguably more impressive as he got his hands dirty and did everything Wood usually does in an England shirt. He was England’s top tackler with 13 – almost double that of anyone else – and could have had a try in the first minute but for a cynical shirt tug from Ma’a Nonu. Will be a vital squad member as England build to the World Cup.
7. Chris Robshaw: 8.5
Robshaw set the tone for everything England did well in Auckland, starting in the first minute when his smart burst from a breakdown led to the first points of the game and announced England’s presence in the game. Continued to carry strongly, performed his linkman role with typical aplomb and didn’t miss a tackle all night.
8. Ben Morgan: 8
Another of England’s top performers, Morgan carried with intent in a solid 80-minute shift. His burst up the blindside from a scrum on England’s five metre line was indicative of the confidence with which the team are playing at the moment.
England’s replacements didn’t really change the game when they came on, but neither did they weaken the side, which was the worry when compared with the star-studded New Zealand bench. Joe Gray threw in admirably well to the lineout, given the lack of game time he’s had this year. Henry Thomas and Dave Attwood came on as a pair, as in the Six Nations – the former adding some dynamism in the loose, and the latter ensuring the set-piece strength wasn’t compromised too much.
Danny Cipriani’s return to international rugby involved an impressive cameo, and although he didn’t have long on the pitch he showed his ability and confidence with a nice outside break with his first touch of the ball. He then also held his nerve to convert the resulting penalty. Lee Dickson could have come on a bit sooner to inject some pace into the game, given Youngs’ troubles.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images