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Sunday, November 23, 1997 Published at 18:52 GMT

Sport: Rugby Union

All Blacks win but England make it tough
image: [ The passion of the haka before the kick-off ]
The passion of the haka before the kick-off

England produced an heroic performance to stop the predicted All Blacks' points landslide in the first Test match at Old Trafford for more than 100 years.

Although Lawrence Dallaglio's men conceded three tries, they refused to buckle against arguably the greatest rugby union team of all time.

Leicester hooker Richard Cockerill set the tone even before kick-off, almost coming to blows with front row rival Norm Hewitt as New Zealand performed their traditional tribal war dance, the haka.

[ image: Ian Jones goes over despite Lawrence Dallaglio's efforts]
Ian Jones goes over despite Lawrence Dallaglio's efforts
England were never out of the All-Blacks' faces, despite seeing lock Ian Jones, wing Jeff Wilson and flanker Taine Randell claim slick, well-worked touchdowns.

Former England skipper Phil de Glanville posted England's first try in three Tests midway through the second half and it would have been a much closer encounter had disappointing fly-half Mike Catt not missed three comfortable penalty chances.

It was New Zealand's 15th win from 19 starts against England, but they could never relax as Dallaglio and company played above themselves to set up an intriguing second Test at Twickenham on December 6.

[ image: Will Greenwood congratules scorer Phil de Glanville]
Will Greenwood congratules scorer Phil de Glanville
The 55,243 Manchester crowd applauded their heroes at the end of an epic contest accompanied to strains of Land of Hope and Glory, yet New Zealand had once again proved themselves undoubted masters.

The England coach, Clive Woodward, said: "We're disappointed that we've lost, because we genuinely thought we could win.

"But the biggest thing was the atmosphere. I've never seen a dressing room like it at half-time. They couldn't wait to get back out - they were so pumped up.

"It was brilliant, and we've got to get this back to Twickenham. We've got to get everyone on their feet instead of sitting on their bums. It was such an intimidating atmosphere. They walked into lion's den."

All Blacks' goalkicker Andrew Mehrtens said: "We expected it to be tough. To a certain extent, we let England have their heads a little bit.

"We let them do their own thing because of our mistakes, so that's something we'll have to work on but to come away with a win from Old Trafford is fantastic."

The BBC's Ian Robertson reports on the match

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