Okay, I’m still up… just. Now we get what is both the biggest game of the round and yet also one of the most meaningless, since we know that both these teams will probably be back to tango again next week. It’sa curious flaw in the scheduling which seems rather obviously avoidable, but oh well. Here are the teams:
England: Wellens, Calderwood, Sykes, Senior, Smith, Gleeson, Burrow, Morley, Higham, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Purdham.
Replacements: Sinfield, Westwood, Hock, Langley.
New Zealand: Hohaia, Nightingale, Matai, Ropati, Vatuvei, Marshall, Leuluai, Blair, Fien, Tuimavave, Mannering, Fa’alogo, Smith.
Replacements: Luke, Eastwood, Kidwell, Harrison.
Very odd decisions for England. On the one hand, Purdham should have been in the seventeen from the start, but on the other playing Martin Gleeson instead of McGuire makes me wonder if Tony Smith is trying to build up a sense of overconfidence in New Zealand ahead of next week.
ENGLAND 24 – 36 NEW ZEALAND
England are still in a huddle whilst New Zealand do their haka. Mind games coming to the fore already.
0 mins: England start off well in defence, but Tony Archer penalises Mickey Higham for holding on in the tackle. It looks like Leuluai was holding onto Higham.
1 mins: New Zealand drop the ball, and England get their first possession.
2 mins: TRY Mickey Higham CONVERSION Rob Purdham
England get a penalty, and Purham and Gleeson threaten the Kiwi line. The play-the-ball is fairly quick and Higham barges over. Purdham adds the easy kick.
ENG 6 – 0 NZ
6 mins: Marshall puts in a nice kick and Wellens has to pick it up when he hoped it would roll dead. England are now camped on their own line
7 mins: TRY Rob Burrow CONVERSION Purdham
Does it matter? After barely making any metres in the first three tackles, England spread it wide near their own line and Keith Senior makes a tackle bust with a deadly fend on Simon Mannering. He reaches halfway before passing inside to Burrow who goes in untouched.
ENG 12 – 0 NZ
10 mins: Morley puts on a high shot, and New Zealand get a penalty.
11 mins: Lee Smith diffuses a Leuluai bomb in the middle of a crowded corner.
13 mins: TRY Manu Vatuvei
A foward pass just inside the Kiwi half by Mickey Higham gives New Zealand possession, and from the scrum Jerome Ropati takes advantage of weak Paul Sykes defence to race away. Wellens does well to bring him down, but the ball makes its way out to Manu Vatuvei who’s pretty difficult to stop from close range.
16 mins: TRY Martin Gleeson CONVERSION Purdham
Okay, this game is crazy. England get lucky when the Kiwis knock the ball on trying to break down the flank, and if it was caught then they would have scored. Instead, England have a scrum and straight away Martin Gleeson puts on a step and races away. He’s brought down short of the line but momentum carries him over.
ENG 18 – 4 NZ
19 mins: TRY Lance Hohaia
New Zealand get a silly penalty for wrong marker positioning, and once again the Kiwis break the line. Hohaia dives over and although Wellens stops his initial effort he’s unable to prevent him sticking his arm out and scoring. An easyish kick for Matai but he misses it. You now get the feeling that the first team that remembers how to defend will win.
ENG 18 – 8 NZ
22 mins: The Kiwis look like they’re building pressure on England by keeping them trapped close to the line, but they give away a penalty for being offside.
26 mins: TRY Burrow CONVERSION Purdham
Higham manages to wrangle a penalty for offside, and England appear to be wasting a set on the Kiwi line when on the last tackle New Zealand wait for the kick, only for Burrow to jink his way over.
ENG 24 – 8 NZ
29 mins: Not looking good for Steve Matai, as he is clutching his shoulder after going into a tackle awkwardly. They’re bringing on the stretcher for him. Hopefully he’s okay, at least his hands are moving but I doubt we’ll see him again today.
31 mins: NZ look like they’re creating pressure and get a drop-out when Wellens has to run the ball dead from a Fien chip, but a few tackles later Benji Marshall forces the pass and it ends up with Adrian Morley.
34 mins: Higham frees Calderwood down the right wing, and he has the presence of mind to pass inside to Wellens.The first tackle stops Wellens from scoring but it’s not completed. Wellens tries to dive over again ut makes the mistake of going for the corner, and he gets both held up then bundled into touch.
36 mins: TRY Frank Nightingale CONVERSION Isaac Luke
England give away another penalty, and New Zealand offload well and free Isaac Luke, who throws a lovely long pass to Nightingale who just dives into the corner despite the attentions of Burrow. With Matai off the field (and he’d been missing easy kicks) Luke steps up to nail a touchline conversion.
ENG 24 – 14 NZ
39 mins: England threaten towards the end of the half, but fail to do anything with it, and when a grubber is put into the in-goal after the first tackle of a set that starts with a scrum 20m out, Benji Marshall picks it up and runs dead. That takes us to half time.
HALF TIME: England 24 – 14 New Zealand
England definitely had the better of that half, but they will be disappointed that New Zealand are still in this through a combination of silly discipline and questionable wide defence. The Kiwis for their part will be looking to cut out the silly errors that have gifted England with their points. Still all to play for in the second half (although there’s actually nothing to play for really) but what can you do?).
40 mins: The game is underway again and England reach halfway with relative ease. In fact they shoud finish well past halfway but Purdham gets dumped back about 7m in the final challenge Sinfield puts in a decent kick.
43 mins: New Zealand get the ball deep in England territory and Benji Marshall opens up a hole for Lance Hohaia. Hohaia, unfortunately, drops the ball.
45 mins: Eek! Fien puts up a massive bomb, and Sykes makes a mess of it. Lee Smith fails to kick it straight dead and Eastwood just failsto reach it before it goes dead.
46 mins: TRY Vatuvei
New Zealand manage to free some space for Vatuvei down the flank. Luke misses the difficult kick, but the Kiwis are now only just behind
ENG 24 – 18 NZ
49 mins: Calderwood seems to think he’s playing Union for a moment, as the first tackle after a scrum he releases the ball behind him. It’s blown up for a knock on, and New Zealand force another drop-out after breaking thanks to a lovely short pass from Marshall to Greg Eastwood.
52 mins: Make that two drop-outs, as Sykes again has to send a Fien kick out the back of the in-goal.
54 mins: TRY Vatuvei CONVERSION Luke
After narrowly stopping Nightingale in one corner, England give away a scrum and New Zealand send it to the other flank for Vatuvei to go over. Wellens’ injury has messed up England’s defensive pattern completely. Luke hits the tough conversion.
ENG 24 – 24 NZ
57 mins: The Kiwis look to be trying the same move again, but Hohaia’s pass to Vatuvei goes way over Manu’s head.
59 mins: England get a very lucky break as Kevin Sinfield’s long kick goes straight to Lance Hohaia, who drops it. England get a scrum 15m out.
61 mins: Wasted set by England, as they fail to keep the Kiwis trapped. They failed to set up on the final tackle.
63 mins: New Zealand have the ball back right on the England line, after Paul Sykes knocks on in the corner. New Zealand in turn waste it as Jermey Smith knocks on in a good tackle from Peacock and Morley.
65 mins: England come very close when they try the power play close to the Kiwi line, but Gareth Ellis is just held up by three New Zealand defenders.
69 mins: PENALTY Luke
As New Zealand put up a high-bomb, Wellens catches it cleanly. However, Isaac Luke makes the most of a slight barge from Kevin Sinfield to go down and claim obstruction. It’s given and Luke kicks the penalty from in front of the posts
ENG 24 – 26 NZ
73 mins: Westwood starts to make a nice break, but throws a forward pass wide to Calderwood. England seem to be spurning any momentum they are given.
74 mins: TRY Nathan Fien CONVERSION Jeremy Smith
Benji Marshall throws a nice pass to Bronson Harrison, who makes a forced offload. However Westwood knocks on in the process of trying to recover it and Nathan Fien picks up and dives over. Jeremy Smith adds the extras
ENG 24 – 32 NZ
77 mins: TRY Vatuvei
A similar story, as the ball is spread wide to Vatuvei who walks in untouched. Benji Marshall is the fourth kicker tonight for the Kiwis, but he misses.
ENG 24 – 36 NZ
79 mins: Marshall breaks and tries to put in a grubber for Vatuvei but it’s poor, adn Calderwood takes the final tackle of the game
FINAL SCORE: England 24 – 36 New Zealand
Terrible second half for England there. New Zealand took full advantage of some terrible wide play, but to throw away a 16 point lead is inexcusable at the best of times, so to do so and lose by 12 points is just abysmal. However, there was enough there to suggest that a semi-final between the two would be an even affair. I just hope Australia don’t throw the game against PNG…