Andrew hits the heights

England's impeccable kicker equals world points record as gallant Canad a are left high and dry
Click to follow
The Independent Online
ANOTHER pulverising victory, more records hit for six, more vividly purple patches of play - and more doubts. By seeking perfection, and by finding it on occasions yesterday, it is England's sometimes unhappy lot to be continually judged by the hi ghest standards.

Six tries in the second half, most of them divinely constructed and ruthlessly executed against opposition considerably stiffer than the pitiful Romanians, could not completely obliterate a first half in which England's sole means of advancing the score (which they did, admittedly, with almost monotonous regularity) was through the accuracy of Rob Andrew.

His 30 points in the match equalled the world record for an individual set by the Frenchman Didier Camberabero in the 1987 World Cup. It was an immaculate display of goal-kicking, 12 out of 12 from the perfect symmetry of six penalties and six conversions. Andrew has now scored 264 points for his country and it is only a matter of time, sooner rather than later, when he overtakes Jon Webb as England's record points scorer.

But if we are to dwell on the negative, as we must, for the only similarities between the unrealism of this contest and the World Cup six months hence were the shape of the ball and the size of the pitch, England's first half in which they managed a meagre 15 points from five of Andrew's penalties was punctuated by feckless uncertainty. This, in part, may have been because of the fact that it had been a month since the players had seen active service but it raised anew the doubts about England's abilityto play the kind of game they consider essential for success in South Africa next summer.

It was only when they tightened the screws by establishing a more stable platform up front that their overwhelming superiority in the line-out and flashing speed behind were fully exploited. Rory Underwood, the arch predator, scored two tries, so did Mike Catt, who had come on as a replacement at full-back for Paul Hull while Tony Underwood and Kyran Bracken scored the other tries.

Bracken's try was stunning. The ball whizzed through seven pairs of hands with Jeremy Guscott twice electrifyingly involved. In all respects, Bracken played a blinder. His speed and vision around the fringes requires constant vigilance from the opposition flankers and his speed of pass gives his outside backs that extra fraction of time which, on the evidence of yesterday, they most certainly need.

Guscott and Will Carling reverted to their old formation, with Carling playing a steadying influence at inside centre and Guscott gliding up imperiously on his outside. They are a formidable combination.

England's line-out was equally impressive. They won the ball almost at will and it will be one of their chief weapons against stronger opposition. But their scrummage lost a strike against the head and for the most part their mauling cut no ice against determinedly committed opposition. Nevertheless, it is in the tight skirmishes where England are at their most comfortable. When the ball travels beyond the forwards' apron, they are strangely vulnerable and even in the devastation of this defeat it was the Canadian loose forwards who looked the better unit. Their emergence from the ruins in the latter part of the game helped create two tries for the left-wing David Lougheed, whose tireless covering and incisive running deserved reward.

There was also a third try for the loose-head prop Eddie Evans, rather less elusive but equally unstoppable close to the England line. Not surprisingly, given their constant exposure to match practice, the game turned brighter for the Canadians. At no time, even in their darkest moments, did they abandon their enthusiasm for running the ball and in that first quarter they had England's defence at full stretch.

Infuriatingly, however, their discipline let them down at crucial times, although at least two of the penalty awards against them in the first half from which Andrew and England profited, seemed a shade harsh, the first when a tackle on Rory Underwood was judged to be high and later when the referee ruled that Carling had been tackled without the ball. At another time, and with another referee, the incidents might have been allowed to go unpunished. But with every succesful kick, Andrew erod ed the Canadians' self-assurance and, by half-time, it was clear that there could be no way back for them.

England: P Hull (Bristol); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), J Guscott (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), K Bracken (Bristol); J Leonard (Harlequins), B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), M Bayfield (Northampton), T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke (Bath), D Richards (Leicester). Replacements: M Catt (Bath) for Hull, 20; P De Glanville (Bath) for R Underwood, 65.

Canada: S Stewart (UBC Old Boys); R Toews (Meraloma), C Stewart (Rovigo), I Stuart (Vancouver Rowing Club, capt), D Lougheed (Toronto Welsh); G Rees (Oxford University), J Graf (UBC Old Boys); E Evans (IBM Tokyo), M Cardinal (James Bay), D Jackart (UBC Old Boys), M James (Burnaby Lake), N Hadley (Wasps), I Gordon (James Bay), G Mackinnon (Britannia Lions), C McKenzie (UBC Old Boys). Replacements: S Gray (KATS) for Toews 40-43; S Gray for I Stuart, 50

Referee: W Erickson (Australia)