Tour could be over for captain Morley

New Zealand Maori 18 England 18
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The Independent Online

England lost their captain and an 18-point lead as they continued their stuttering build-up to the Four Nations with a second draw.

Of more concern than the result of this match is the result of a scan today on Adrian Morley's right biceps. He lasted only a few minutes before going off with the injury and the sight of his team-mates consoling him on the sidelines suggested the worst.

However, Morley was not ready to concede that his tour could be over before it has properly started: "I was really disappointed that I had to come off. That's why people were consoling me. It was just a normal tackle, but I got a whack on it. It didn't feel right, but hopefully it's not as serious as they think."

Morley's coach, Steve McNamara, also tried to sound optimistic. "We will know more over the next 24 hours, but I'm really disappointed for him – as a captain on his first tour having this happen after 10 minutes of the first game," he said. "If the worst comes to the worst, it gives someone else a chance."

An extra worry for McNamara was that Sam Tomkins, so potent in the first half, finished the second nursing a groin strain as all England's early good work fell apart.

They were dominant from the start, although it took the arrival of the Huddersfield pair, Eorl Crabtree and Luke Robinson, from the bench to turn pressure into points.

Offloads from Crabtree contributed to all three first-half tries, with Gareth Ellis also getting the ball out of the tackle to help Sam Tomkins set up Ryan Atkins for the opener. Then Robinson, with his first touch, scooped up another ball from his Giants team-mate to send Tomkins away.

Immediately before half-time, the Huddersfield double act struck again, for Sean O'Loughlin to score. With Gareth Widdop landing his third conversion, England looked to be on their way to a comfortable victory. It didn't quite work out like that. "I thought we were really good in the first half," said McNamara. "The second half showed what we need to improve on."

The unwelcome transformation began when Bodene Thompson got the Maori on the scoreboard after 52 minutes. Ten minutes later, Castleford's Rangi Chase kicked through for Aaron Heremia to touch down and Chase's own try reduced the margin to two points as England's defence looked deeply unreliable. With four minutes to play, Ellis was penalised for interfering at the play-the-ball and Kevin Locke's goal gave the jubilant Maori a draw that could have been a win if Robinson had not blocked Chase's drop-goal attempt.

McNamara said it had been the rigorous work-out England needed. This week will show whether it has cost them too high a price.

In the second half of the double bill at the Mt Smart Stadium, England saw just what they will be up against in Wellington next Saturday as New Zealand gave a demonstration of clinical finishing to beat Samoa 50-6. The first Test between the two countries was supposed to stretch the Kiwis, but two tries from Shaun Kenny-Dowall and one from Jason Nightingale got them off to a flier. Captain Benji Marshall set up all three and scored one of his own before half-time. Manu Vatuvei scored two tries after the break, with others from Nathan Fien, Wigan's Thomas Leuluai, Lance Hohaia and Frank Pritchard, before Samoa got a late consolation.

New Zealand Maori: Locke; Earl, Tahu, Toopi, Manihera; Taumata, Chase; Tamou, Heremaia, Packer, Hauraki, Horo, Thompson. Substitutes used: Smith, Proctor, McKendry, Brown.

England: Widdop; Briscoe, Shenton, Atkins, Hall; Brown, S Tomkins; Morley, Roby, Griffin, Burgess, Ellis, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Robinson, Westwood,J Tomkins.

Referee: L Williamson (New Zealand).

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