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Hansen hails Cruden class

Sun, 08 Jun 2014 08:10
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New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praised the bravery and class of flyhalf Aaron Cruden for producing the match-winning moment in a tight Test.

Cruden was hailed as the hero of the All Blacks' last gasp 20-15 win over England at the weekend, not for the five penalties he kicked but for the one he turned down.

Cruden not only caught England napping but also his own teammates when he opted to tap and run when the All Blacks won a handy penalty with the score locked at 15-all.

As captain Richie McCaw prepared to call for a shot at goal, Cruden set off down field before feeding Beauden Barrett and on to Victor Vito and then Ben Smith who was pulled up just short of the line.

From the resulting scrum, the All Blacks found space down the short side for Conrad Smith to score the match-winning try.

"Someone had to take the game by the scruff of the neck and say: 'Hey look, we'll stop what we're doing here and really have a crack at you'," Hansen told a post-match media briefing.

"Logic would say Cruden should have had a shot at goal but I think England would have enjoyed that because then they would have come back. We needed to break the deadlock somehow."

McCaw said Cruden didn't tell anyone what he had in mind, but he had no objection.

"You've got to back the guys to have a crack. If they're always looking at me you'll never take opportunities," McCaw said.

"I was ready to point at the posts but he thought better of it and at the end of the day it paid off. If we had kicked the goal we would have been up by three but we would have given England a chance to get field position again."

Even England coach Stuart Lancaster acknowledged the smartness of Cruden going against convention.

"In tight games at 15-all it's a drop-goal or penalty that sometimes wins it. Unfortunately they got the penalty then tapped and went and of course go the try," he said.

Cruden missed the conversion, but until his decisive action he had kept the All Blacks in the game with five penalties, the last of which put the world champions ahead for the first time in the match with 11 minutes remaining.

England, although they stretched the All Blacks for much of the match, failed to score a try and relied on four penalties by Freddie Burns and one by Danny Cipriani for all of their points.

AFP

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