New Zealand’s Aaron Cruden hailed for turning down kick at goal

Cruden sprung a surprise in the closing stages of the first Test at Eden Park, turning down a presentable chance to kick for goal with the scores locked at 15-15.

The number 10 opted to run the ball instead, catching the England defence napping, and although the All Blacks were initially prevented from crossing, they maintained the pressure and were rewarded as Conrad Smith went over in the corner for a match-winning try.

Asked what his reaction had been when Cruden rejected the chance to claim three points, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said: “Good on ya son! Especially when Beauden (Barrett) gave the ball to Victor (Vito) and I thought Victor was going to steam train right through.

“I think it was one of those games where someone had to take it by the scruff of the neck and say ‘we’ll stop doing what we’re doing here and we’ll have a crack at you’.

“Logic would say Cruden should have kicked for goal but I think England would have enjoyed that because they would have come back.

“We needed to break the deadlock somehow. He played an option that was there to play. And we’re always encouraging them to play what’s in front of them. We were very calm in the box and supportive of what he did.”

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw confirmed he had played no part in Cruden’s decision.

“I was ready to point at the posts but he thought better of it. At the end of the day it paid off,” McCaw added.

“If we’d kicked the goal we would have been up by three but it would have given England a chance to get field position again and it worked out.

“Guys have got to be able to think for themselves a bit.”

Smith’s late score ensured a valiant England side, missing many established regulars, went unrewarded for their efforts.

Hansen expects New Zealand, who were playing their first international of the year, to show improvement in next weekend’s second Test in Dunedin, where England will have a full-strength squad to choose from.

“Either side could have won the game but I don’t think either side lost it,” he added.

“I think one team won it and one person made a decision to change how we were playing in a vital moment and that’s what rugby is about, having people brave enough to do that.

“But we’re probably going to have to be 30-40 per cent better than we were today.”

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