New Zealand. . . . . 27
FOUR tries to none - it ought to have been a highly satisfactory outing yesterday for the midweek All Blacks. But instead they had to hang on for dear life as the record kicking of Paul Grayson made it as excruciating as it ever had been against the Midlands and South-West.
For the North, ostensibly the weakest of England's divisional sides, this was an epic effort after being written off by some of us beforehand. But at the same time it was not meant to be; it seldom is against the All Blacks and, with an awful predictability, Grayson hurried and missed his final chance after landing seven that had been harder. Not the first to miss a penalty at Anfield.
Here again were the Blacks showing they are both beatable and desperately hard to beat. The petty offsides and obstructions which drive opponents to distraction were present as usual but more striking was their willingness to concede penalty after penalty so as to avoid try after try.
'They are more prepared to give penalties away than position or the chance of something else,' Mike Slemen, the North coach, said. 'I don't know if it's a deliberate policy but they stopped us doing what we wanted to do because they killed the ball. They also stopped lots of things by being in the wrong place coming back. They're not the only ones who do that, but we've seen it from them for years.'
Referees are hammering them, yesterday's penalty count was 18-7, but there has been no try against them in the three games since they thrashed London 11 days ago.
This defence, however it has been contrived, has saved them. On the other hand, the curious thing about yesterday's match was that the All Blacks had it tightly in their grip when Jeff Wilson's conversion of Norman Hewitt's try made it 22-6 before half an hour had passed. But instead of squeezing still tighter they perpetrated a countless stream of errors, losing the ball or simply giving it away, sloppy rugby which most All Black teams of old would simply not have countenanced.
Laurie Mains, their coach, does not: 'I can assure you it's not a
deliberate policy and I am somewhat annoyed at the carelessness of some of our players in giving away penalties.'
This was to the North's credit. Tim Rodber was superb as a line-out winner and in broken play - which is further bad news, one suspects, for Neil Back - though the idea promoted by Dick Greenwood, North's chairman of selectors, that the ball would regularly reach Rory Underwood proved no more than a fancy.
'He is not in our team just to chase kicks,' Greenwood had said. In fact that is precisely what the England wing did do, eventually getting the ball in his hands after 52 minutes. The North never threatened a try to add to Grayson's 21 points, the most scored by an individual against the All Blacks in these islands. It was the third North-New Zealand match in a row in which the North have scored 21.
The All Blacks' win was effectively created in 10 minutes of the first half. Assisted by one obstruction and one pass off the ground in a tackle, Marc Ellis scored the first try and then followed his own kick into vacant space for the second. But after the third try by Hewitt, there was nothing until Eroni Clarke put Eric Rush away for the fourth in the second half. Yes, Rush really did score at Anfield.
North: Penalties Grayson 7. New Zealand: Tries Ellis 2, Hewitt, Rush; Conversions Wilson 2; Penalty Wilson.
NORTH: I Hunter (Northampton); J Mallinder (Sale), K Simms (Liverpool St Helens, capt), M Fielden (Northampton), R Underwood (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), D Scully (Wakefield); M Hynes, G French (Orrell), S McMain (Sheffield), J Dixon (West Hartlepool), D Baldwin (Sale), T Rodber (Northampton), A MacFarlane (Sale), N Ashurst (Orrell). Replacement: C Cusani (Orrell) for Baldwin, h/t.
NEW ZEALAND: S Howarth (Auckland); J Wilson (Otago), E Clarke (Auckland), M Berry (Wellington), E Rush (North Harbour); M Ellis, S Forster (Otago); M Allen (Taranaki), N Hewitt (Hawke's Bay), G Purvis (Waikato), B Larsen (North Harbour), R Fromont, Z Brooke (Auckland, capt), J Mitchell (Waikato), L Barry (North Harbour).
Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).Reuse content