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WORLD SPORT

All Blacks survive England rally

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Umaga's try was the signal for the All Blacks to step up a gear

LONDON, England -- New Zealand kept their grand slam dreams alive but were made to work hard for a 23-19 win over a much improved England at Twickenham on Saturday.

World champions England took an early lead through a Martin Corry try, but after visiting skipper Tana Umaga had crossed for a equalizing score it was the All Blacks who forged ahead.

Flyhalf Daniel Carter pulled the strings as the Tri Nations champions led 23-13 early in the second half before two Charlie Hodgson penalties cut the lead.

New Zealand were also handicapped by playing 23 minutes of the second half with only 14 men as they tried to preserve their lead.

Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock was sent to the sin bin in the 57th minute and replacement Neemia Tialata was also shown a yellow card by referee Alan Lewis just as Woodcock was preparing to return.

Flanker Chris Masoe became the third New Zealander to be sent off in the 77nd minute.

England ended the match camped near the All Blacks line but were unable to press home the advantage.

"It was a high quality Test match and both teams should feel real pride," said New Zealand coach Graham Henry.

"The guts the All Blacks showed out there was remarkable and I feel quite humble about what they've achieved.

"When you play the world champions at Twickenham I think it's a big test match. Against the odds in the second half so I think it was a remarkable performance."

Only Scotland now stand between Umaga's men and a clean sweep of Great Britain and Ireland.

The elusive Carter was named man of the match and it was his class that proved the difference between two powerful sides.

Superb breaks either side of half-time set up Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu for tries and he was also assured with the boot landing two conversions and three further penalties.

Strong start

New Zealand, who had overwhelmed Wales and Ireland by 38 point margins, found themselves on the back foot as early as the third minute when England scored the game's first try.

England won a penalty that led to a lineout close to the All Blacks line after Byron Kelleher's kick had been charged down by opposing scrum-half Matt Dawson and the ball gone dead. From the resulting rolling maul Corry was driven over.

Hodgson converted and England were 7-0 up.

England, who had been looking solid in defence, then paid the price for No 8 Corry's missed tackle inside his own 22 on Carter.

He burst through and released Umaga for an 18th minute try. Carter converted and the game was all square.

England then regained the lead when Hodgson landed a 42 meter penalty before Carter equalized.

In attack England did not help themselves with a succession of high passes which slowed down back moves and up front another ruck offence saw Carter ease New Zealand into a 13-10 lead on the half-hour mark.

Hodgson had a chance to respond three minutes later but sliced his penalty effort to leave the All Blacks three points ahead at half-time.

Carter stunned Twickenham by missing a routine penalty early in the second half but he once again proved too much for the England defence with another dashing break taking his side a metre away from the line.

From the ruck hooker Mealamu went over for a 46th minute try and Carter converted to extend New Zealand's lead to 20-10.

Hodgson's second successful penalty cut the All Blacks' lead to seven points before Carter restored the 10-point gap with his third on-target penalty after England strayed offside.

Two further excellent Hodgson penalties set up a tense finish but the All Blacks deservedly hung on.

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