Blyth displays winning spirit

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The Independent Online
England A 24 New South Wales 22

There was plenty of spirit, as Andy Blyth demonstrated with his winning try in injury time, and bags of confidence as England's players in waiting strutted their stuff against an effective and seasoned New South Wales side in bitterly cold conditions at Leicester's Welford Road yesterday.

On this performance, quite a few of this England A team - notably in the back row and at scrum-half - should not have to wait too long before hitting payola in the full side. They certainly earned their keep and even put in 10 minutes' overtime - five in each half - as the Australian state side, unbeaten on tour until yesterday's confrontation, tested Tony Diprose's men throughout.

There were 11 capped Australians on the pitch, but every England player threw his hat in the ring. Captain Diprose declared this, the third victory under his leadership, the best. "We played some outstanding rugby against Western Samoa, while France A were a hard, physical side, but this was our best performance and our most satisfying result," the Saracens No 8 explained.

In an absorbing first half, punctuated by penalties and punches, Matt Burke's kicking kept the tourists' noses in front. But inside 10 minutes after an interval prolonged by Sky TV's coverage, Diprose's men were in front. Will Greenwood, a rangy Harlequin, powered through following a 49th-minute tap penalty. Alex King made up for his missed conversion with a penalty five minutes later and the Australians were rattled.

So much so that they finally put the A team under some real pressure which resulted in a try for Daniel Manu. Burke, who had already kicked a fourth penalty, did not miss the conversion that edged New South Wales ahead and, in the final minute of normal time, he added a fifth penalty.

Blyth levelled the scores and King popped over the conversion before Tim Stimpson attempted a final penalty, awarded apparently because of some back-chat from the tourists.

England A: Tries Greenwood, Blyth; Conversion King; Penalties Stimpson 2, King 2.

New South Wales: Try Manu; Conversion Burke; Penalties Burke 5.

ENGLAND A: T Stimpson (West Hartlepool); P Hull (Bristol), A Blyth (West Hartlepool), W Greenwood (Harlequins), A Adebayo (Bath); A King (Bristol Univ), A Healey (Orrell); R Hardwick (Coventry), R Cockerill, D Garforth (both Leicester), G Archer (Bristol), J Fowler (Sale), M Corry (Bristol), R Hill (Saracens), A Diprose (Saracens, capt).

NEW SOUTH WALES: M Burke (Eastwood); A Murdoch (Gordon), J Madz (West Harbour), R Tombs (Northern Suburbs), D Campese (Randwick); S Bowen (Southern Districts), S Payne (Eastern Suburbs); R Harry (Sydney Univ), M Bell (Northern Suburbs), M Hartill (Gordon), W Waugh (Randwick), S Domoni (Northern Suburbs), W Ofahengaue (Manly), D Manu (Eastwood), T Gavin (Eastern Suburbs, capt). Replacement: A Blades (Gordon) for Harry, 54.

Referee: D Davies (Llanbradach).