New Zealand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26
IT HAD been a bad week for the All Blacks so they needed yesterday's therapy at the International Stadium in Gateshead, even if it was again scarcely the most conclusive display. The main thing was that the tourists were on good behaviour and no one got hurt.
For both of these their management will give thanks. The Phil de Glanville stamping incident was given another dissection in all the Sunday papers and Laurie Mains, their coach, walked out on a BBC Radio 5 interview on Saturday evening before it had even begun when it became clear foul play rather than the tour in general would be the subject.
If that was evidence of a man under pressure, he also had some justification for feeling like this after the scratchy way his teams beat the Midlands, South-West and London. 'Our players have had a very long and arduous season and we just haven't come up anywhere near our peak performance,' Mains said.
Yesterday's game was less fraught because the margin was less narrow but its message was really no different from the previous three. New Zealand have gone through this English leg of their tour with five wins out of five by the clinically efficient means of accepting the chances that are offered, especially if they are offered as tinsel-wrapped as yesterday's first try.
All their opponents - England's second string no less than any of their predecessors - have done exactly the opposite. The A team went close enough to tries for All Blacks discomfort, but the evidence of the past fortnight indicates that their defence is virtually impregnable. 'It is the best organised I have ever come up against,' John Hall, the captain first of the South-West and now the A team, said.
Then there is the kicking. Here, Jonathan Callard missed three of seven shots at goal - not a bad return but against the All Blacks not good enough, not when the New Zealand kicker is Matthew Cooper and the next best thing to infallible. When Cooper at last missed a penalty it was already injury time and 19,100 people, the stadium's record attendance, blinked in disbelief.
As he had already put over his first five opportunities, three penalties and the conversions of both tries, and Marc Ellis had dropped a goal that should not have counted because it immediately followed a free-kick, it did not matter. New Zealand had scored a try in each half, the first a devastating set-back which effectively put England beyond redemption.
Twenty-two minutes had passed when Callard, having fielded a loose defensive kick by Ellis, chose to ignore Ian Hunter to his immediate left and fling a dangerous pass beyond Hunter towards Mike Catt. Callard could see his England chance evaporate as with awful inevitability Jeff Wilson, a late inclusion instead of the flu-ridden Eroni Clarke, intercepted and scored at the posts.
The second after an hour was an example of All Blacks continuity, the conspicuous Stuart Forster attacking the blind side and linking with Arran Pene before, in a trice, New Zealand moved the ball the other way through Forster, Ellis and Frank Bunce to John Timu who steamed into the line for the try.
That England did not reply in kind was not for want of trying. Neither Scotland nor England will beat the Blacks by merely defending, and if England want to attack they will have to pick Stuart Barnes as their outside-half orchestrator, even if he is as short of fitness as he was yesterday.
England A's biggest problem was the line-out, a barren area that threatens to be the same for England if Martin Bayfield does not make a miraculous recovery. Ian Jones won all the important ball here, but in the loose the As were far more effective. Neil Back's constant presence at the point of breakdown will be an asset England do without on 27 November at their peril.
England A: Penalties Callard 4. New Zealand: Tries Wilson, Timu; Conversions Cooper 2; Penalties Cooper 3; Drop Goal Ellis.
ENGLAND A: J Callard (Bath); I Hunter (Northampton), D Hopley (Wasps), M Catt (Bath), P Hull (Bristol); S Barnes (Bath), K Bracken (Bristol); G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe (Bath), A Mullins (Harlequins), N Redman (Bath), D Sims (Gloucester), J Hall (Bath, capt), T Rodber (Northampton), N Back (Leicester). Temporary substitute: S Ojomoh (Bath) for Redman, 60-62.
NEW ZEALAND: J Timu (Otago); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), M Cooper (Waikato), V Tuigamala (Auckland); M Ellis, S Forster (Otago); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown (Auckland), S Gordon (Waikato), I Jones (North Auckland), B Larsen (North Harbour), A Pene (Otago), Z Brooke (Auckland).
Referee: R Megson (Scotland).
Lynagh inspires Wallabies,
Win for England Under-21s, page 29