England 25-25 New Zealand: Will Stuart brace in three-try finish rescues draw in stunning Twickenham fightback

Celebrations: Will Stuart scores his second try in England’s epic comeback against the All Blacks  (REUTERS)
Celebrations: Will Stuart scores his second try in England’s epic comeback against the All Blacks (REUTERS)

Will Stuart’s two-try salvo scrambled England a scarcely deserved 25-25 Autumn Nations Series draw with New Zealand at Twickenham.

Freddie Steward notched a score in between Stuart’s brace, as England shook off the shackles of a woeful first 65 minutes to drag their way to an honours-even finish in west London.

The All Blacks had bested England in every department to lead 22-6 past the hour, only for England to conjure a three-try finish almost out of nowhere. Beauden Barrett’s yellow card proved pivotal, coming on the award of Stuart and England’s first score.

Eddie Jones’ men crossed twice more with New Zealand down to 14 men for the end of the contest, to cut the resurgent All Blacks’ winning streak short at six.

England now stand at won five, lost five, drawn one for their stuttering 2022, but the manner of this late, late comeback will mask some serious deficiencies that were thrown up in the first hour.

All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii’s early interception and try stunned England (Getty Images)
All Blacks flanker Dalton Papalii’s early interception and try stunned England (Getty Images)

Dalton Papalii, Codie Taylor and Rieko Ioane crossed for the All Blacks, who will feel they blew this match entirely, especially having handed England three major reprieves en route to a 17-3 half-time lead.

England took the sting out of the Haka through a sound and light show that diverted attention, then the home crowd drowning out the ceremonial challenge with ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’.

New Zealand took the sting out of the start of the match however – and when it really mattered. Flanker Papalii read England’s telegraphed lineout move to intercept Jack van Poortvliet’s pass and race under the sticks unopposed.

Then hooker Taylor capped a driven lineout after England had infringed at the scrum. Jordie Barrett converted both scores to put the All Blacks 14 points up in just nine minutes.

Ioane thought he had powered in for a third score for the visitors, only for the centre to be censored for a neck roll on Owen Farrell. That was a major reprieve that kept England in the match, but in truth only by default.

England eventually troubled the scorers 25 minutes in, through a routine Farrell penalty. Van Poortvliet inexplicably cut blind off a static scrum in his own half, feeding Jonny May nothing but a hospital pass next. England leaked the inevitable penalty, to find themselves staring down another defensive set in their own 22.

Taylor took too long with the throw however, to let the hosts off the hook again. New Zealand were quickly back on the attack though, but a cheap knock-on from Jordie Barrett blew another score.

Rieko Ioane’s stylish score looked to have sealed a dominant victory for New Zealand (AP)
Rieko Ioane’s stylish score looked to have sealed a dominant victory for New Zealand (AP)

Jordie Barrett settled for a penalty to close the half, with the All Blacks 17-3 to the good and cruising. Smith slotted a penalty as England opened the second half with focus and verve, with Farrell carrying a knock to the leg. The Harlequins tyro then scythed the line with a fine show-and-go, sending Manu Tuilagi careering into the All Blacks’ 22.

England kept powering around the corner, even tapping a penalty in their desire to pulverise the visitors. But New Zealand held firm to win a penalty on their own line and then clear to safety. New Zealand’s supremacy was confirmed when Ioane raced the length after a lovely 22 move.

Jordie and Scott Barrett forced a knock-on from Sam Simmonds in a double tackle, and the third Barrett brother, Beauden, chipped immediately to the wing.

Caleb Clarke collected on the inside angle, fed Ioane on a simple switch – and the All Blacks outside centre was free to speed home. The swing of England failing to turn dominance into a try and New Zealand breaking free to score from a first-phase turnover put the All Blacks in near total control.

England continued to press, even raising the tempo, but Jones’ men had neither the gameplan nor the speed of deed to force a try breakthrough. Beauden Barrett’s drop-goal pushed New Zealand into a 25-6 lead into the final 10 minutes, before the All Blacks 15 was sin-binned for killing the ball on his own line.

But England would not be denied thanks to Will Stuart’s late brace and Freddie Steward try (AP)
But England would not be denied thanks to Will Stuart’s late brace and Freddie Steward try (AP)

Replacement prop Stuart was eventually awarded a try after a bundle on the line, before Steward crossed too as the hosts capitalised on the extra man. Smith converted Steward’s try to leave New Zealand 25-18 ahead edging into the final five minutes.

Stuart stole a second score to stun the All Blacks and cap another fine England counter-attack. Smith’s conversion had England somehow level at 25-25, with the final whistle approaching.

New Zealand restarted the game on the final play, and England thought about chancing their arm for all of two seconds – before Smith punted into the stands for full-time.

The draw throws up more questions than answers for both sides, but at least England showed grit, fire and some pacy attacking intent at the death.