New Zealand have easily accounted for England in the last of their pool matches, winning 36-24.
Now, before you read on keep in mind that these two teams will play again next week in the World Cup Semi Final, and this game had no baring on the competition, so both teams tried a few things.
New Zealand started the game terribly and by the 27th minute it was 24-8 England way. Thats when the game changing move was made and Isaac Luke came into the game for New Zealand.
They looked like a different side.
Luke completely changed the way New Zealand were playing around the ruck, he gave them focus, he was constantly getting his forwards good ball and he looked like with half a chance he could break the game open with his dangerous running game. His kicking game out of dummy half was also a feature.
You have to wonder why the New Zealand coaching staff keep starting him off the bench. Whether they worry he lacks a bit of fitness, I’m not too sure. He defiantly doesn’t need shielded from Test football, he is a standout performer for New Zealand each time out and a natural leader.
New Zealand simply turned it on with Luke at hooker and Fien, Marshall and Hohaia swapping around the halves roles. They were scored 28-0 from the time Luke entered the game, that really says it all.
It is clear that New Zealand still have a few adjustments to make.
Thomas Leuluai is a liability to this team. He may be able to cut it in Super League, but like Englands halves his lack of skill, organizational skills and defense is exposed at this level.
The New Zealand pack looked super mobile and I’m finding it hard to think that Nathan Cayless is the best player to bring back into the side. I think his team mates are simply a much better option at this stage.
I’m still not convinced about playing Hohaia at fullback, I think they need more than he gives them. I’d think of playing Perrett back there and bringing on Hohaia to rest Luke mid way through the game.
Marshall still didn’t control the game like I would have like to have seen, but with Luke in there he doesn’t need to be New Zealands everything, he can work with space and works of the back of good ball, and that’s all Marshall needs to tear a team apart.
As for England, dear me, what can you say.
Wellens failed at fullback again. Playing Gleeson at standoff was a failure, Burrow failed at halfback again. Paul Sykes was doing ok until New Zealand realized he had no idea what he should be doing in defense.
Higham played well when allowed to make the dummy half role his own and I think they should start him next week and have Roby off the bench.
Westwood did well and should be there next week while Calderwood more than once looked like he feared the collision….you cant have that at this level.
Kevin Sinfield played a lot of the game in the halves and England looked better for it. He at least understands some of the things you expect from a halfback, like a passing and kicking game, and he is a lot better than any of Englands other options at that position.
Still, England were completely shown up and exposed once again. Manu Vatuvei scored 4 tries off the same type of play, if that happened at club level it would be a disgrace, let alone test level.
England will conservatively have 80 put on them if they let Australia use their set plays, not that I think England will make it that far.
New Zealand would have to be pretty pleased with where they are right now. They are improving in every game, a few of their combination come together, their forwards looked good and they know their semi final opponent is easy pickings if you just run a few decoy runners at them.
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