Rugby Union: England cap records in rout of Dutch

England 110 Netherlands 0
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THE SLAUGHTER of the innocents was witnessed by Georges Coste, coach of Italy, England's next opponents in this appetite whetter of a World Cup qualifying tournament, and nothing England did, the racking up of a century of points and the ditching of the Dutch, frightened him. "I wasn't scared by what I saw," said Coste, after England had run up their highest score in an international, surpassing by a full half century the 60-point efforts against Japan, Canada and Wales in 1987, 1994 and 1998.

Mind you, he did add a rider after so surgical a performance. "But we are very respectful of England's ability." That respect is mutual. Clive Woodward, England's coach, remained merely whelmed by the performance, which he felt was less than perfect ("We could have been more clinical.") and his thoughts moved immediately forward to the confrontation with Italy.

"We are under no illusions about the team we meet next week," he said. "It will be a really tough test. When I saw the Italians beat Argentina they were very physical and we have to make sure we are spot on for next Sunday, which will be a really hard game."

That may imply that, in this catchweight contest, this mismatch of amateurism and professionalism, the Dutch had very little to offer. But that would be unjust and, if the England centre Jeremy Guscott is to be believed, untrue. "I didn't know what to expect when we went out there," said the scorer of four of England's 16 tries.

"But, after being hit two or three times early on, I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as my subconscious had told me. The Dutch just did not give up. They just never said never. They battled right to the end."

Equally, there was little sign of easing up on the part of England. In the past, concentration has wavered and there has been a falling away in scoring towards the end of one-sided matches such as this. Very creditably, this time they were far more ruthless. Neil Back, the Leicester flanker, matched Guscott's try tally with four of his own and earned high praise from Signor Coste, who said: "For me Back is an extraordinary player. I am very very fond of him. He can be beaten physically, perhaps, but he is a player who is always here, there and all over the place. He is an extraordinary force on the field."

He also likes Guscott and claimed: "When Guscott came on to today he did so with legs on fire." Woodward was less graphic but as fulsome when referring to the pace and power running of the centre, who is now England's second highest try scorer on 22 (still some way behind Rory Underwood's 49).

Woodward said: "Seeing Jerry run like that is one of the great sights in sport, not just in rugby. It is fantastic watching him when he gets the ball like that. It was a big plus for me and the team."

Nor did Woodward overlook the importance of the role of the stand-off Paul Grayson in repeatedly hammering home England's massive superiority with his kicking, whether from hand or, more especially, at goal. Grayson landed 15 conversions - nearly doubling Simon Hodgkinson's eight against Romania and falling five short of the tally the New Zealander Simon Culhane set in the 1995 World Cup. The one fluffed kick would have taken Grayson past Rob Andrew's tally of 30 points, the most scored by an English player in a match. Instead he shares the top spot.

"I thought Grayson was fantastic," Woodward said. "I thought he controlled the game really well, and his goal kicking was outstanding. On his day he is the best goal-kicker in the country. Conversions are what keep the score mounting."

The doom-mongers who were predicting crippling injuries up front because of the gap in standards reckoned without two factors: the common sense of England's front five, who appeared to do just enough to get what they wanted (the ball) and eschewed any macho posturing, and, just as importantly, a Dutch scrum which was well-versed technically, if a trifle naive at times.

And the Netherlands boys could tackle as well. The centres Rogier van de Walle and Garron Everts were fearless, as were No 8 Caine Elisara and the open side Nick Holten. Scrum-half Mats Marcker, the Dutch captain, a veritable terrier with sniping breaks, was also demonic in contact, flinging his 5ft 7in frame into the fray at every opportunity.

England: Tries Back 4, Penalty try, Greenwood, Guscott 4, Cockerill, Corry, Dawson, Luger, Healey, Beal; Conversions Grayson 15.

ENGLAND: M Perry (Bath); A Healey, W Greenwood (both Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), D Luger (Harlequins); P Grayson, M Dawson (both Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill, D Garforth (both Leicester), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), G Archer (Newcastle), B Clarke (Richmond), M Corry, N Back (both Leicester). Replacements: N Beal (Northampton) for Perry 51; R Hill (Saracens) for Clarke 51; T Rodber (Northampton) for Archer 51; G Rowntree (Leicester) for Garforth 51.

NETHERLANDS: A Webber (London Kiwis); O Winkels (Haagsche RC), R van de Walle (Leidse RC/DIOK), G Everts (Reading), G Viguurs (Den Bosch); B Vervoort (Oisterwijk), M Marcker (Castricum, capt); J J van de Esch (West Hartlepool), A Seybel (Haagsche RC), R Philippo, P Faas (Oisterwijk), R Donkers (Roosenedaal CC/Bekaro), R van de Ven (Peyrehorade), C Elisara (Wakefield), N Holten (Waikato). Replacements: S Ramaker (Rotterdam RC/Homeko) for B Verwoort 61; H Brat (Haagsche RC) for J J van de Esch 47; R Lips (Haagsche RC) for Marcker, 76.

Referee: R Duhau (France).