Pitch perfect Smith conquers Kiwis

England 20 New Zealand 12
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The Independent Online

Tony Smith may or may not want to carry on as England coach after the current Four Nations, but he is on the sort of roll where any decision he makes will probably be the right one.

A commanding forward display saw his side progress into the final of the tournament at the expense of the reigning world champions.

Every member of the pack – starting and substitute – did his share and more, but it is Smith who deserves the credit for putting them on the field at Huddersfield in the right roles and combinations – something that has not always been easy for national coaches.

That meant playing Kevin Sinfield at hooker, after he had spent most of the week saying how grateful he was for a regular berth at loose forward.

Into that role came Sam Burgess, effectively giving England four props in a starting pack designed to fight Kiwi fire with the maximum firepower. It worked superbly, with Sinfield controlling play from dummy half and Burgess adding to the running options.

"Tony knows how much I love playing that position and thankfully it went well for me there," said Burgess, who next year will ply his trade in the back yard of Saturday's Four Nations final opponents, Australia. "But I don't think Kevin Sinfield has been given enough credit," he said. "People underestimate his skills, but he showed what a bag of tricks he has up his sleeve."

With the help of strong displays from James Graham, Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock and Gareth Ellis, England took a measure of control early over the Kiwi pack. Behind them, the other decisions Smith took also paid off. Kyle Eastmond's early fizz and opening try justified his inclusion. Peter Fox, brought in on the right wing, made up for his one defensive blemish with the two tries before half-time that put England in a winning position.

Smith knows, however, that the final against Australia at Elland Road will present a completely different set of problems. The Australians warmed up for that match with what was eventually a comfortable 42-4 victory over France in Paris, but they were only 8-0 ahead after an uninspired first half.

Smith hinted at some more "horses for courses" selections for Saturday. If so, don't bet on them letting him down.

England: Briscoe; Fox, Bridge, Shenton, Hall; Tomkins, Eastmond; Morley, Sinfield, Graham, Peacock, Ellis, Burgess. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Roby, Westwood, Wilkin.

New Zealand: Hohaia; Perrett, Sau, Foran, Goodwin; Marshall, Fien; Nuuausala, Leuluai, Moimoi, Soliola, Pritchard, Blair. Substitutes used: Luke, Lima, Matulino,Waerea-Hargreaves.

Referee: T Alibert (France).

Try double from Kear helps Wales win European Cup

The Welsh rugby league revival under Iestyn Harris continued at Bridgend last night with a hard-fought 28-16 victory over Scotland that brought them the European Cup. A team largely composed of Welsh born and bred players with Crusaders affiliations finally proved too good for the Scots.

Scotland threatened to spoil the party with a first-half hat-trick of tries from centre, Mick Nanyn.

Wales were always in touch, however, with some creative handling producing tries for Ashley Bateman, Elliot Kear and Ben Flower. In the second half, they dominated with tries from Christiaan Roets, Lloyd White, and a second from Kear. ......... Dave Hadfield