Julian Savea scored a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand produced a clinical, high-paced first half performance to set up a 36-13 win over England and seal a record-equalling 17th successive test victory at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith scored two tries as the All Blacks produced a first half that coach Steve Hansen called ‘as good as you can get’.
Flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked nine points and his replacement Beauden Barrett added a late conversion as the hosts clinched the three-test series 3-0.
Flyhalf Freddie Burns slotted two first half penalties and converted Marland Yarde’s second half try for the visitors who impressed on their tour with their combativeness and willingness to play a wide game.
The victory ensured Steve Hansen’s side equalled the record amongst Tier One Nations jointly held by the 1965-69 All Blacks and the 1997-98 South African teams.
The team had been on the cusp of equalling the mark twice in the past four years only to be held to a 18-18 draw by Australia in 2012, ending a 16-game winning streak, while the Wallabies also ended a 15-game winning run in 2010 with a 26-24 victory.
They have the opportunity to eclipse the record, coincidentally against Australia in Sydney on Aug. 16 in their opening Rugby Championship match.
After tight clashes in the first two matches of the series, the All Blacks stamped their authority on Waikato Stadium in the first 20 minutes as their forwards sucked in England’s players to narrow the defence then cut their backs to shreds out wide.
Savea crossed the tryline three times in that opening quarter but was only awarded two tries with the final pass on his potential third drifting forward after yet another clinical interplay between the pack and backline.
“I thought the boys’ skills were outstanding in the first 20 minutes and we really put the pressure on,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said in a televised interview.
“Over the first couple of games we had been wanting to put a better performance out there and I think we did that (on Saturday).
“I thought across the park, although it wasn’t perfect, there were some brilliant performances.”
Burns slotted his second penalty to reduce the deficit to 15-6 before Billy Vunipola was harshly adjudged to have committed a high tackle on Cruden and given a yellow card by Jerome Garces.
Scrumhalf Smith then ran the perfect support lines to cross twice as the All Blacks again cut through the England defence with ease and established an imposing 29-6 halftime lead.
“The first half was about as good as you can get,” Hansen said. “The wheels fell off the train a little bit (in the second half) but the rest of the game we will take a lot of positives out of.”
England winger Yarde crossed shortly after the break as the visitors finally imposed themselves and while they had several opportunities to score were unable to breach a desperate smothering All Blacks defence.
Savea then completed his hat-trick almost two minutes after the final hooter had sounded as the hosts kept the ball alive, with Barrett adding the conversion.
“Very disappointed in our first 40, it wasn’t great but credit to New Zealand, they were very clinical in that first half and really exposed us in some areas,” England captain Chris Robshaw said.
“Second half I thought we were much better, but unfortunately it wasn’t our day.
“A lot of lessons have been learned. A lot of guys stepped up in this series so there are a huge amount of positives but we are disappointed to finish the way we did.”
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