England B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
ONE MINUTE Jack Rowell was saying there was nothing wrong with the referee and the next Stuart Barnes was laying into Colin Hawke with a venom that cracked the veneer of discretion England had maintained throughout the fuss over the inflicting of Victor Ubogu's ear injury a week earlier.
The diatribe would have carried more weight if England B had won yesterday's second rugby union international here at Counties Stadium. Then they could not have been accused of whingeing, which is probably why Rowell, the coach, preferred to keep his counsel.
But, with the series lost 2-0, Barnes could not restrain himself, accusing one of New Zealand's international officials of bias and of missing countless infractions by his own countrymen. It was imperative, he said, that neutral referees were appointed to games of such importance, just as they are to B internationals in Europe.
The captain's humour was not helped by having a personal try, shown by television to have been perfectly valid, disallowed, nor by Hawke's award of a dubious try to New Zealand in injury time, nor by the plethora of undetected New Zealand knock-ons, nor by England's steady decline from the 18-9 lead they held immediately after half-time.
'The most charitable I could be is to say that he's not up to the standard,' Barnes said. 'I don't like being critical of referees because teams have just got to play and it's not the fault of the New Zealand XV. But it looked to me like the guy was bent.'
What is more, Barnes meant every word. He was given the opportunity to withdraw this remark when asked if he meant Hawke was really 'bent' or simply incompetent - and did not take it. 'I'm saying one or the other. He is not a good referee. If he is a top referee, then he was bent today.
'The television would vindicate that there were a lot of decisions that were hairline or debatable that he was in a position to see, and that's not acceptable.' In fact, many in New Zealand now regard Hawke as the country's leading referee, though when he took Australia against Scotland in Brisbane a fortnight ago he was roundly criticised from all sides.
Barnes, who used to be a regular thorn in officialdom's side, was not afraid to tell Hawke to his face when he was buttonholed by the referee in the clubhouse last night, but Hawke was blithely unconcerned, as if this sort of thing happened all the time. 'It doesn't upset me in the least,' he said later. 'I'm always open to discussion.'
Barnes insisted that he was speaking in an official capacity on behalf of his players. 'You don't come across the world to have a referee do that to you,' he railed. 'There's the old stiff-upper-lip British attitude but sometimes when there's a performance like that I think you've got to speak out and I'm bitterly disappointed.
'I saw a score of knock-ons or more that were blatant and that's unacceptable. If you make basic errors at this level, then that should be costly; today basic errors were made which weren't, and because of that they were able to generate more drive. I felt he didn't referee the game at all.'
If it had been as simple as a dodgy referee, England might still have won. With Barnes's place- kicking back in perfect working order, for the second week running they led at half-time. Barnes and Simon Mannix landed two penalties each and Steve Ojomoh scored a converted try after Steve Hackney had done well to swerve inside the cover defence.
England had also had to defend stoutly for much of the first half and, having done so, pulled clear when Marty Berry made a hash of Damian Hopley's clearance and Phil de Glanville capitalised to add the second try, converted by Barnes. And that was that.
England, suddenly penalised time and again, were inexorably reeled in by penalties, Lee Stensness scored a decisive try beautifully created by Mannix, and finally Richard Turner was awarded a second, even though his facial expression betrayed that he thought he had touched the ball down against the corner flag.
'It was noticeable that as soon as we got two scores ahead there was penalty after penalty after penalty,' Barnes said. The effect on him and his players was psychological debilitation as much as anything physical; unable to come to terms with the way they were being refereed, England were scarcely in the game during the last 35 minutes. But there was more to it than that. The England pack were under unwonted pressure in the scrummage and were uncoordinated, unproductive and of course over-penalised in the line-out. In loose play, England's partiality for forward driving and midfield intricacy, at the expense of using their extreme pace out wide, foundered on poor ball retention.
So although Tony Underwood was named the England man-of- the-match by the sponsors, it was on the basis of too limited an involvement. Which in its way is the story of this B tour: infinite promise but, when it came down to it, inadequate achievement.
New Zealand XV: Tries Stensness, Turner; Penalties Mannix 5; Drop goal Stensness. England B: Tries Ojomoh, de Glanville; Conversions Barnes 2; Penalties Barnes 2.
NEW ZEALAND XV: M Berry (Wairarapa Bush); A McCormick (Canterbury), S Pierce (North Harbour), L Stensness (Manawatu), T Tagaloa (North Harbour); S Mannix (Wellington), S Crabb (Waikato); M Allen (Taranaki), W Gatland (Waikato, capt), G Walsh (North Harbour), S Gordon (Waikato), C Tregaskis (Wellington), G Taylor (North Auckland), R Turner (North Harbour), D Seymour (Canterbury).
ENGLAND B: I Hunter (Northampton); S Hackney (Leicester), P de Glanville (Bath), D Hopley (Wasps), T Underwood (Leicester); S Barnes (Bath, capt), A Kardooni (Leicester); M Hynes (Orrell), G Dawe (Bath), A Mullins (Harlequins), M Haag (Bath), M Bayfield (Northampton), S Ojomoh, B Clarke (Bath), N Back (Leicester). Replacement: G Thompson (Harlequins) for De Glanville, 54.
Referee: C Hawke (Timaru).Reuse content