New Zealand have easily accounted for England 24-10 in front of a pretty decent crowd in Wellington.
With both teams wearing historic jerseys and really going all out for a few photos to mark the occasion, its was interesting to see James Graham snarl “Don’t touch me” to a ground coordinator who was just trying to get him to take a step or too backwards so they could get a better picture.
What an arsehole James Graham must be. Hopefully he got out of his encounter with that lady without too many mental scars…
The Haka was ok but not fantastic. I thought the Kiwi’s would have walked right over to England before they started the Haka, if only to try and get the Englishmen fired up and burning off a bit more nervous energy.
The first 20 minutes wen’t pretty much as I expected, however England made less of an impact and the Kiwi’s just looked so much more physically stronger than their counterparts.
An early injury to New Zealand winger Manu Vatuvei, who broke his arm, didn’t seem to slow the Kiwi’s down as they scored down his side of the field moments after he had been replaced.
Englands defense out wide was a shambles, and really, New Zealand should have taken much more of an advantage. The English centers compress in and ball watch, they don’t hold the line, and the English wingers stay in position, or fall back.
This means the English backs effectively create an overlap for their opposition.
New Zealand looked alright but a little off the pace in the first half and the tactic to bring Issac Luke off the bench, which I liked going into the match, just didn’t work. He came on and really looked like he needed some time to get into the rhythm of the match. Which his service from dummy half was cleaner than Thomas Leuluai’s, he just looked like his name had been knocked out of sync.
For England, they just looked horrible.
Their had nothing in terms of any sort of structure to their game. Their attack involved one wide, running sidewards, and then passing to a center or second rower who would run back into the teeth of the defense. It was just bad.
The English forwards were once again completely dominated as well. The memorable quote by Dave Woods of the BBC that at least the English back is knock for its bone crushing effectiveness, even in losses, was just shown up to be the laughable like we knew it already was.
They looked stuffed after 25 minutes, they struggled to make ground, they layed no platform at all for the backs and they made way too many mistakes. They were terrible.
The Kiwi’s got away to an 18-0 lead early in the second half and it looked like they would kick away and put on a big scoreline. It never happened. They fell off the pace, they lost their edge and got plain lazy, and they almost let England back into the contest.
A clever kick from dummy half by James Roby, which it the upright, gave England some hope. He just wanted the ball more and it bounced his way. Then, a sweeping back line play by England found some lazy defense on the edges and they were in again. The missed conversion hurt them though, instead of being down by just 6 points, they found themselves having to score twice with an 18-10 score line.
From there, New Zealand kicked it up a gear and just closed out the game. There was one fantastic try by Shaun Kenny-Dowall where he pushed off 4 defenders to score a powerful try that really summed up the game for me. The English defenders tried, but they were a step to late with everything they did.
Part way through the second half, England moved Gareth Widdop from fullback, where he did alright considering his inexperience, and put Sam Tomkins back there.
I’ve seen a lot of praise from English fans and commentators for Tomkins performance once he moved to fullback, but I didn’t see it. He did nothing in attack all game, and in defense at fullback, he was so far out of position it was as though England were just content to drop their wingers on kicks.
While I was disappointed with the New Zealand performance, they do have a history of starting these long tournaments slowly and get better as time goes on. They got the win, they are all but assured of a place in the final, and they have a run under their belts. You can’t ask for too much more than that.
As for England, I just don’t know where they go from here. They were outclassed in every aspect of the game despite the fact New Zealand were not at their best.
Their supposed strength, their forwards, were completely dominated by their opposition. Meanwhile their backs are just so inexperienced, you can not really expect too much from them.
As for their halves, they once again showed England can not produce halfbacks in any sense of what a modern day halfback or five-eight should be. They just don’t know what they need to be doing against any sort of quality defense.
So next week New Zealand go on to face Papua New Guinea, who should give them more of a fight than the English forwards did. As for England, they have to pray for a weeks worth of rain, a sodden ground and an Australian side to show a bit of mercy next week in Melbourne.
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