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New Zealand beats England 36-13 in 3rd test, sweeps series 3-0

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HAMILTON, New Zealand - New Zealand posted a record-tying 17th straight test win and undermined England's World Cup title ambitions by winning the third rugby test 36-13 and sweeping the series on Saturday.

The confidence England evinced after the first two tests, that it was developing a team capable of matching the world's best, was exposed as a pipe dream by an All Blacks team which scored five tries to one.

Winger Julian Savea and scrumhalf Aaron Smith both scored first-half doubles - Savea two tries in the first eight minutes - as New Zealand took a 29-6 lead to halftime. Savea completed his hat trick in second-half injury time.

New Zealand won the first test 25-20, the second 28-27, and those close contests fueled England's belief that it was the equal of the All Blacks, that it had a side of similar calibre and ability.

But England owed its competitiveness in those matches to a variety of factors, including the fact the New Zealanders were coming together from five different teams in the middle of a Super Rugby competition and needed time to firm combinations.

In the second half on Saturday, the tourists were allowed to play offside and flop on contested ball. But New Zealand was at least able to avoid a repeat of the slow starts that allowed England to compete in the first two tests and, with a heightened focus on accuracy, tore England's defence to ribbons in the first half.

"That first half is as good as you'll see," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. "It's like the wheels fell off the train a bit in the second half.

"We got penalized three times in the scrum and went from their goalline to our goalline and put ourselves under a lot of pressure. Then at lineout time, we couldn't organize a lineout call which was ironic because the lineout has been slow all year."

While England broke the fluency of New Zealand's game in the second half, it made only minor inroads into its lead, and the All Blacks closed the game with a brilliant try after the hooter.

"I'm very happy with the performance, especially in the first half," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said. "Considering it was a slippery ball, the boys' skills were outstanding, especially in the first 20 minutes.

"We put the pressure on, and though we didn't reach the same heights in the second half, to win 36-13 you have to be pretty happy."

The All Blacks had been aware in the first two tests of England's compressed defensive line but hadn't regularly been able to exploit it. They did so on Saturday with fast and precise passing that put Savea in space, outside his marker Chris Ashton, for their first two tries.

He scored in the third minute when fullback Ben Smith furnished the last pass, and again in the eighth minute when a long pass bounced at his feet and he showed great skill to reclaim the bounce and score. Savea could have had a hat trick inside 15 minutes but he received a forward pass.

The pace at which New Zealand played, and its constant attack which saw it spend 72 per cent of the first half in England territory, left the tourists gasping by the end of the first quarter.

England No. 8 Billy Vunipola was sin-binned in the 20th for a high tackle on Aaron Smith and the scrumhalf fittingly made the visitors pay with New Zealand's third try in the 26th. He added their fourth eight minutes later when Ben Smith broke the defence and turned the ball infield to his namesake, who was running at his shoulder.

England opened the second half with a try after only two minutes to winger Marland Yarde, who ran off a break by scrumhalf Ben Youngs, who was the best of England's backs. Yarde ran strongly throughout the second half but with little support.

New Zealand overpowered the England scrum, the vaunted centerpiece of its game, and broke down its lineout, though referee Jerome Garces negated the advantage as the All Blacks were too slow to throw in three times. The All Blacks also disrupted the English rolling mauls.

But, again, New Zealand played at a high and continuous tempo, this time for longer, and the English buckled under the pressure.

"We fought hard for two tests and fought hard in the second half of the third, but we are behind them in all areas at the moment," England coach Stuart Lancaster said.

Saturday's win was New Zealand's 17th in succession in tests, matching the record of the All Blacks from 1965 to 1969 and South Africa in 1997 and 1998. The All Blacks next play Australia in Sydney on Aug. 16.

"You don't make a big deal of the record but it's something we're keen to achieve," McCaw said. "We want it outright."

____

New Zealand 36 (Julian Savea 3, Aaron Smith 2 tries; Aaron Cruden 3 conversions, penalty; Beauden Barrett conversion), England 13 (Marland Yarde try; Freddie Burns conversion, 2 penalties). HT: 29-6.

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