IN WHAT their captain, Will Carling, called 'our greatest win', England's rugby players beat New Zealand at Twickenham yesterday by 15 points to 9 in a triumph of tactical acumen and persistence. It was only England's fourth victory over the All Blacks in 17 meetings.
A match that began with the ferocious posturing of the All Blacks' famous Haka ended with the comforting strains of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'. Before a sell-out crowd of 68,000, more than half of them occupying the unbroken sweep of the new East and North stands, a patched-up England took the lead after a quarter of an hour.
Four penalties from their full-back, Jonathan Callard, and a drop goal from Rob Andrew gave England the advantage over three penalties from Jeff Wilson, New Zealand's 20-year-old winger. Callard, aged 27, was making his England debut, as was Kyran Bracken, the 20-year-old scrum half.
Hitherto unbeaten on their tour of Scotland and England, the All Blacks were widely suspected of invincibility and were becoming clear favourites for the next World Cup.
'We got it right and took our chances,' the England manager, Geoff Cooke, said. 'It is incredibly satisfying. Kyran Bracken was magnificent, considering that he was injured in the first minute. Jonathan Callard showed all the skills we believed were there. He struck his goals sweetly.' Bracken needed treatment in the third minute when an opponent accidentally trod on his ankle.
'When we said we knew how to beat them,' Rob Andrew observed, 'it wasn't false confidence. We kept them under pressure all afternoon, and our two new boys were fantastic.'
The possibility that England might beat the All Blacks kept the crowd enthralled, but it was not a match to delight Corinthians. England's coach, Dick Best, summed it up afterwards: 'Our defensive play was bordering on the heroic.'
Match report, sports section
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