Chase gives England hope they can topple Kangaroos

England 28 New Zealand 6

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England produced one of their finest Test performances of recent years as they defined the difference between a team that was in control and one that lost control.

The ill-disciplined Kiwis conceded a string of penalties at the KC Stadium, whilst Steve McNamara's band showed exemplary patience and composure to qualify for a Four Nations final against Australia on Saturday.

Nobody epitomised that better than Rangi Chase, the New Zealand-born England scrum-half, who was the target of Kiwi taunts throughout. He could easily have lost the plot shortly before half-time when he was subjected to a cynical leg-twist in the tackle by Issac Luke, but calmed down to let his rugby do the talking after the interval.

"As soon as I put my allegiance to England, I knew that was going to happen," he said of the verbal provocation and the injury that could have been added to insult. "People were going get fired up and want to have a go at me. It was hard not to react and I had a bit of a scuffle, but I regained my cool at half-time and got on with the job."

The Castleford half-back had his best game yet for his adopted country, taking on the line and feeding dangerous ball to the men outside him, yet he was only one of a number of players who produced their best when it mattered most.

All the pre-match hype over the young and richly-talented England back three of Sam Tomkins, Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe was justified when each of the outside backs scored a try.

Tomkins, committed to rugby league for at least another four years, made a dodgy start when a kick got away from him to set up a disallowed Kiwi try; after that, however, he was his inimitable self, cutting through the defence in a series of baffling runs.

As for Hall, he could claim at this stage of the tournament to be the best winger in the world. He scored two marvellous tries against Australia at Wembley last weekend; his effort at Hull was almost as good.

Two others who deserve a mention are James Graham and Jamie Peacock, who battled for fitness all week, but who came through with mighty efforts on the night.

The forward who could not recover in time, Gareth Ellis, was replaced by Jon Wilkin in the first England team change of the tournament. Wilkin, a local boy from just across the city in East Hull, will be hard to leave out at Elland Road even if, as expected, Ellis is fully fit after his back injury. Wilkin played the full 80 minutes and showed any number of useful touches, including the crucial pass for the first try.

The next pass, from Hull's own Kirk Yeaman, could have been called as forward, and it has to be admitted that England got the benefit of a couple of line-ball decisions – a measure of good fortune they were probably due after Wembley. On the other hand, New Zealand could have been punished more severely for their ill-disciplined excesses.

Apart from Luke's attempt to unhinge Chase's ankle, Jeremy Smith – who, like Luke, was placed on report – and the disappointing Benji Marshall could count themselves fortunate not to see a card of one colour or other. It was an ignominious way to end their reign as world champions, having won the World Cup in 2008 and the Four Nations last year, but they have been a sorry let-down this year.

They were admittedly without some players who would have made a difference, but even in areas where they looked strong, like the half-back combination of Marshall and Kieran Foran, they turned out to be underwhelming.

One player exempt from criticism on Saturday was their centre or second-row, Simon Mannering, who saved two tries with magnificent defence.

Overall, though, 2011 has been a year to forget for Kiwi rugby league – and a badly timed one when the All Blacks are celebrating their World Cup.

For England the challenge is to reproduce this sort of form against Australia at Elland Road, where they fell on their faces having reached the final two years ago.

It is almost 40 years since England or Great Britain took a series or a tournament away from the Kangaroos. With a settled team playing this "controlled, measured and effective game", as McNamara quite rightly put it, chances do not come much better than the one they will have on Saturday.

England Tomkins; Hall, Reed, Yeaman, Briscoe; Sinfield, Chase;

Graham, Roby, Peacock, Wilkin, Westwood, Heighington.

Substitutes Carvell, Widdop, Jones-Buchanan, Morley.

New Zealand Locke; Beale, Brown, Mannering, Nightingale;

Marshall, Foran; Matulino, Leuluai, Packer, Manu, Blair, Smith. Substitutes Taylor, Glenn, Luke, Waerea-Hargreaves.

Referee M Cecchin (Australia).

Comments