The reaction in New Zealand to the All Blacks’ exit from the Rugby World Cup at the hands of England is best summed up by the Herald on Sunday’s fully black front page.
Free from hyperbole or any sense of injustice, the sombre tone of the Herald’s spread reflects the thoughts of the country’s leading rugby writers.
Patrick McKendry was among many in New Zealand who were magnanimous in defeat, writing in the Herald that “the better team won on the night”, with his colleague Liam Napier saying that “England thoroughly deserve this victory” and that England “dethroned” the All Blacks “in the most clinical fashion”.
Gregor Paul (also appearing on these pages as our All Blacks expert) tells Herald readers that the All Blacks won’t bounce back easily from such a painful defeat.
“They looked rattled for much of the game. They looked like they simply didn’t know where to run as there were white jerseys everywhere and not one of them missed a tackle.
“The nature of the defeat, it being so comprehensive, means it will leave deep scars within the All Blacks. They won’t get over it quickly because they were exposed on the biggest stage of all.
“But their wounds will heal. In time. That’s the All Blacks’ way – to come back stronger and better and they will need to.”
Dylan Cleaver, also writing in the Herald, believes that England are “the real deal” as he looks ahead to a potentially era-defining rugby rivalry in years to come.
“You sense this is rugby’s next great rivalry. It’s about time that England came to the party with all their resources and bluster. Not that it will give New Zealanders much solace right now.”
In Stuff.co.nz, Richard Knowler was not so quick to leave Steve Hansen’s side off the hook, highlighting uncharacteristic All Blacks errors across the 80 minutes.
“Take your pick of the ugly moments in the second half, especially. There was the wild pass by replacement wing Jordie Barrett inside his own quarter, which led to a turnover and later a penalty that George Ford converted into points.
“Experienced lock Sam Whitelock made a silly ruck clean-out that also led to a penalty, which could have resulted in the All Blacks launching a lineout drive, being reversed.”
Marc Hinton, writing for the same publication, writes that the All Blacks were “out-played, out-coached and out-fought”.
Hinton continues that the Hansen’s side “were ill-disciplined, sloppy and beaten to the punch throughout almost the entirety of this captivating contest”.