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A feeling of deja vu here… last week’s game was simultaneously closer than the scoreline suggests and yet also more one-sided than the scoreline suggests. If England don’t completely suck for the second half today, we could have quite a game on our hands. The teams:
England: Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Lee Smith; Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow; Jamie Peacock (c), James Roby, James Graham (c); Gareth Ellis, Ben Westwood, Rob Purdham.
Interchange: Leon Pryce, Adrian Morley, Mickey Higham, Jon Wilkin
New Zealand: Lance Hohaia; Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei; Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien; Nathan Cayless (c), Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair; Sika Manu, David Fa’alogo, Jeremy Smith.
Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Bronson Harrison, Sam Rapira.
Of course, England haven’t really done much to suggest that they can make the step up, but blind hope’s a powerful thing, isn’t it? Stil, at the very least it’s a good sign that England will at last be operating with two hookers. I still see the Kiwis sneaking it.
ENGLAND 16 – 22 NEW ZEALAND
At the very least. as Jamie Peacock comes out he looks like he’s a a man on a mission. I hope he’s not the only one…
No mind games this week, as England choose to face the Haka.
0 mins: Thirty seconds in, and already England give away a penalty for interference
1 mins: The Kiwis put up a kick for Calderwood whihch he drops, but after the Kiwis knock on themselves.
2 mins: England try spreading the ball wide, only for Gardner to drop a not-that-great Gleeson pass. Luckily for them, New Zealand knock on in the tackle from the first hit-up after the scrum.
7 mins: New Zealand have already displayed a superiority in the kicking game, making Wellens and Gardner run from their line. Gleeson looks like he’s made some metres in a hlaf-break that gets dragged down by Benji Marshall, but it’s a knock on.
8 mins: TRY Sam Perrett CONVERSION Jeremy Smith
New Zealand get a bit of luck, as Fien’s pass hits the deck but goes into the hands of Benji. England’s defenders have frozen up and Marshall runs at them before freeing Perrett into a small gap. Once again, mistakes costing England. Jeremy Smith adds the conversion.
ENG 0 – 6 NZ
11 mins: Gareth Ellis knocks on just past halfway. They clearly don’t want to do this the easy way.
13 mins: Ade Gardner saves Danny McGuire when he forces a knock-on from Marshall, which saves a potential three-on-one situation.
15 mins: England come soo close as a sweeping move gets Gardner in the corner, but the video ref notices that his toes are just on the line. Still, England have shown they can attack at last. Now they just need to show they can defend.
17 mins: The ball moves from end to end as both New Zealand then England manage to reach halfway before kicking it long. The difference is that New Zealand get the ball to sit up in the in-goal, whereas England kick the ball dead.
18 mins: TRY Lance Hohaia
New Zealand get a penalty when Ben Westwood charges Benji Marshall fairly late. New Zealand are now in prime real estate. They score from a rather simple run-in as England fail to come off their line and Hohaia simply has too much momentum to stop. Smith misses the kickable conversion, but it’s still very much advantage Kiwis right now.
ENG 0 – 10 NZ
20 mins: Purdham sends the kick-off straight dead. It’s really not going well for England.
21 mins: TRY Jerome Ropati CONVERSION Smith
New Zealand spread the ball wide and Ropati gets over with far too much ease. It goes to the video ref and despite the fact that Cayless seems to take Purdham out, it is deemed that he didn’t open up a try-scoring opportunity in doing so. Smith adds the conversion
ENG 0 – 16 NZ
25 mins: Just as England get some attacking momentum, tehy drop the ball and Marshall picks up the spoils and runs 40m. A combination of Calderwood and McGuire manage to bring him down, and England get a let off when from Fien’s kick Gleeson clearly takes Vatuvei out. Instead of a penalty, it’s given as a 20m restart for England.
28 mins: TRY Jamie Peacock
Wellens looks like he’s blown an opportunity to score when he knocks on in an attacking movement, but the Kiwis knock-on straight back to England. They fail to attack with any threat until Gareth Ellis’s off-load catches the Kiwis off-guard as Burrow’s pass allows Peacock to crash over. Purdham misses a kick well within his standards,but at least England are on the board.
ENG 4 – 16 NZ
32 mins: England get some major attacking momentum and Graham’s pass gets Wellens driving for the line, but he knocks on into Smith’s hands.
35 mins: England have upgraded from ‘hopeless’ to ‘frustrating’ in the last ten minutes. Purdhams makes a break and offloads to a supporting McGuire, but he is taken down in the process of trying to hold on to the ball. If England start holding on to these wild passes things might be different, but the error count is getting silly.
37 mins: Yet again, England try to chance their arm, but Wilkin fails to hold on to McGuire’s pass.
39 mins: TRY Danny McGuire CONVERSION Rob Burrow
New Zealand knock on when Simon Mannering can’t take Benji Marshall’s pass. From the scrum, England chance their arm, and realising that they can’t hold onto the ball, they let Purdham kick it from the base instead. With no-one home at full-back from the scrum, McGuire catches it from the high bounce and touches down just before Perrett can get to him, and dives over to score a try from nothing. The video ref checks it and decides it’s a ‘Benefit of the Doubt’ decision for McGuire, which seems odd to me as he definitely seemed onside to me. Oh well, they all count. Burrow adds the kick from in front of the posts.
HALF TIME: England 10 – 16 New Zealand
As an England fan I have to take heart from the fact that they are still in this game after a terrible opening quarter. However, England really need to start the second half strong and cut out the insane error count. For their part, the Kiwis are operating in reverse, having started well before starting to drop the ball every other tackle. This game is still very much up in the air, and I’m not going to try to predict a winner.
40 mins: England start off with a fairly pedestrian set. It’s one-out stuff which works fairly well, but Higham’s kick at the end is mediocre at best.
42 mins: Oh christ. Burrow’s kick hits the back of a Kiwi, Wellens’ follow up is sliced. Ropati takes it and is tackled by many off-side Englishmen. It worrying looks like back to form for England.
43 mins: England get a lucky break when Isaac Luke knocks on close to the English line.
45 mins: England get a lucky break when Greg Eastwood gets a hand to a loose ball and England get a restarted set. However it is wasted when McGuire puts a decent kick into the in-goal but Perrett comes back out with almost no chase pressuring him.
46 mins: England again spread the ball wide, but there’s a forward pass from Gleeson which frees Gardner.
47 mins: Nathan Fien puts in a very nice grubber, but it just reaches the dead ball line before Sam Perrett and Simon Mannering can get to it.
49 mins: England get some rhythm in attack, and McGuire’s grubber is held up in goal by Mannering. England force a drop out.
51 mins: Firstly Martin Gleeson makes a nice break, and the ball makes its way to Senior who is held up just short. A few tackles later Higham is held up running on the last.
52 mins: England get a lucky break as Marshall spots a gap out wide on the final tackle, and gives it to Roparti. If Ropati sees Vatuvei outside him, it’s probably a try, but instead he gives it inside to Marshall who gets collared by Calderwood.
53 mins: Wellens knocks on at the play the ball inside his own half. Luckily for him, Vatuvei quickly knocks on in the tackle.
56 mins: TRY Bronson Harrison CONVERSION Smith
Terrible, terrible defence from England. Firstly, Rob Burrow ballwatches and Fien spots a gap he puts Bronson Harrison through. Then Harrison goes around a poor attempt at a tackle from Paul Wellens. Smith adds the easy conversion. The Kiwis are now in the driving seat.
ENG 10 – 22 NZ
59 mins: England get both a lucky break and a tough break as Lance Hohaia knocks on a fairly nothing kick. Unfortunately, the ref blows up for this just as Rob Burrow picks up the ball and scampers to the line.
60 mins: TRY Martin Gleeson CONVERSION Burrow
England convert the chance with a sweep move from left to right, as Martin Gleeson arcs around Ropati and Vatuvei and has the upper body strength to rech over for the try. Burrow, not a first choice kicker, nails a touchline conversion and it is very much game on.
ENG 16 – 22 NZ
63 mins: Hohaia drops another kick, this time backwards, and as he is dragged back in goal the ref blows up for a Kiwi penalty, seemingly for not releasing in the tackle. Hohaia throws the ball at Wilkin’s head and it kicks off. At the end of it New Zealand still have the penalty.
65 mins: England make a mistake when Gardner fails to properly take Fien’s kick in-goal, and a black wall swarms on him to force a drop out.
66 mins: Fien again puts in a grubber into the corner, but Gardner beats Ropati to the ball. Another drop-out
67 mins: TRY Ropati CONVERSION Benji Marshall
Another stupid try conceded by England. A decent kick from Fien is dropped by McGuire. Even so, Gardner should cover it but instead he tries to pick it up and fails. Ropati touches the ball down untouched.
ENG 16 – 28 NZ
69 mins: England get the ball back from a short kick off, but after looking a bit threatening they lose the ball when Peacock can’t hold onto McGuire’s pass into traffic.
71 mins: England gain have the ball and try spreading it wide, but Gardner is left with no space and is bundled into touch. You would have to think that this is out of England’s reach now.
73 mins: TRY McGuire CONVERSION Burrow
Did I speak too soon? England force a knock on from Marshall, and as England move towards the line Graham goes from looking for a hit up to shifting it to McGuire. McGuire takes advantage of a confused defence to step over. Burrow adds the easy conversion.
ENG 22 – 28 NZ
75 mins: England get the ball back from McGuire’s bomb as Perrett makes a hash of it, but as England are attacking they throw a terrible pass that hits the deack, and Purdham knocks on trying to pick it off the deck.
76 mins: The Kiwis play it safe and kick it deep. Pryce recovers and tries to start something from the back as he gives it to Gardner. Gardner knocks on.
78 mins: TRY Benji Marshall
Fien puts up a high kick which Vatuvei palms back to Ropati. Ropati puts a pass wide to Marshall. McGuire tries to incercept but fails, and Marshall strolls over. Game over.
ENG 22 – 32 NZ
79 mins: Cayless knocks on the kick-off but it doesn’t matter as time expires.
FINAL SCORE: England 22 – 32 New Zealand
Disappointing for England. Once again they pay the price for a terrible start which left them with too much to do. New Zealand took advantage of England’s silly mistakes and that proved to be the key difference. England need to learn that you cannot make that many mistakes and win a game, especially at Test level. New Zealand didn’t look that special, but they looked far more competent. It’s a shame, because that second half was probably the first time that England showed passion and commitment in this tournament, but it was too little too late. New Zealand now get the chance to prepare for Australia or Fiji next week, and England get to return to a British winter.