Jones puts his faith in Smith as England snatch All Blacks draw
Eddie Jones had no complaints over Marcus Smith's decision to settle for a draw after England produced an astonishing fightback from 25-6 down with nine minutes left against New Zealand to finish all square at 25-25 in a remarkable encounter at Twickenham.
England seemed destined for a second defeat of the Autumn Nations Series, following an opening 30-29 loss to Argentina, when New Zealand surged into a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes thanks to converted tries flanker Dalton Papali'i and hooker Codie Taylor.
Rieko Ioane crossed for a superb try early in the second half, running three-quarters of the length of the field, before Beauden Barrett's drop-goal in the 71st minute left New Zealand 19 points in front and on course for victory in the teams' first meeting since England's 2019 World Cup semi-final win over the All Blacks.
Barrett, however, was sin-binned in the build-up to a try by England's Will Stuart and full-back Freddie Steward crossed minutes later to the delight of a capacity crowd of over 81,000.
Replacement prop Stuart completed the remarkable recovery when he forced his way over for a second try on the stroke of full-time, with Smith adding the tieing conversion.
But the fly-half was booed by some home fans when, instead of going for a win, he kicked into touch with the last play of an enthralling game.
"It is always up to players mate," England coach Jones told reporters. "I trust their decision-making. I am not on the field. I don't have access to them. I just trust their decision.
"We're disappointed we didn't win the game but a draw is a draw and the dominance they had in the first half, we could have fallen away.
- 'Pulverised' -
"When you get absolutely pulverised by them - like we were in the first half -- and you don't stay in the fight, you can get blown away even more.
"We stayed in the fight, which I think the leadership of the team was outstanding. Owen (Farrell) did a great job in his 100th cap with (Ellis) Genge and Jack Nowell.
"The crowd were absolutely fantastic, which definitely lifted the players, so we are grateful to the 81,641 that were there. I don't know what happened to the other 349!
"They will be kicking themselves but we hope there is 82,000 next week complete because it will be a hell of a game (against world champions South Africa)," added Jones, England's coach when they lost the 2019 World Cup final to the Springboks.
England scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, playing in just his sixth Test, had a difficult match but Jones said the 21-year-old would be better for the experience.
"Brilliant young player and that is one of the best games for him where things don't go well and you have to battle through," Jones said of Van Poortvliet.
"And that's the best 40 I've seen Marcus play in Test rugby. Aggressive, decisive and wanted to own the game, not as an individual but part of the team, so I thought that was a big step forward for the young man."
All Blacks coach Ian Foster, for whom this result rounded off a difficult year featuring four defeats -- a high number of losses for rugby superpower New Zealand -- was taken aback by Smith's final play.
"Was I surprised? Yeah I was. All I know is flip it over, I'd have liked our guys to have a crack so not sure what their tactics were," he said.
"We'll certainly be more disappointed than them...We've come here and played some great rugby. In our mind we should have walked away with win."
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