Rugby Union: England made to work hard

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British Columbia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

ENGLAND opened on an uncertain note with an unconvincing 26-10 win over the perennial Canadian provincial champions, British Columbia, at the Royal Athletic Park, where it was shirt-sleeve order for the crowd of around 3,000, writes Eric Seery from Victoria.

The tourists struck early through a drop goal from Paul Challinor and David Pears lengthened the lead with a penalty goal midway through the first half.

But the expected England domination of the lineout did not occur thanks in part to the pin-point throwing of the veteran hooker Mark Cardinal, who made the BC flanker Ian Gordon the primary ball-winner at the back of the lineout. Martin Johnson, who took the lion's share at the front, was the chief supplier for the England tourists, and in the final analysis possession ended just about even in all other phases of the game.

Once again the quality of Canadian back-row play provided the main event of the game, with a battle royal between the sets of flankers and the Canuck No 8 Colin Mackenzie, who was the player of the game for the home team. Time and time again Hall and Back were checked by their opposite numbers, McKinnon and Gordon, in close-quarter foraging and support play further out. It was mainly the efforts of the BC forwards which disjointed the England attack, checked the rolling mauls and reduced Challinor to a mainly kicking role.

The only try of the first half came on the half-hour when a poor clearing kick was returned by Nick Beal, and just before Phil de Glanville was felled by a thunderous tackle from Scott Stewart, Hopley was sent away to score in the corner.

The Harlequins full-back, Pears, saved the day twice for the tourists late in the half when he tackled first Mark Williams then later the wing Barry Ebl to prevent what had looked certain tries. However BC reduced the arrears when Chris Tynan kicked a penalty with the England centres caught offside.

After half-time BC let down their guard a little and England punished them with two well-taken tries. Steve Ojomoh ran off a maul to put Beal away, and the wing's perfectly placed cross-kick led to an airborne catch and try by Kyran Bracken and a conversion from Pears. The replacement centre, Adedayo Adebayo, crossed for an unconverted try shortly after and England were home and dry.

Injuries took their toll, Matt Dawson with a hamstring strain and Phil de Glanville with damage to a shoulder leaving the field in the first half. The Canadians Ebl and Ian Gordon went hors de combat in the second half.

Mackenzie finally restored local honour with a good try by the posts in the second half for replacement Gareth Rees to convert. Pears had the last word on the day when he rounded off England's 26 points with a long penalty from 46 yards.

British Columbia: Try Mackenzie; Conversion Rees; Penalty Tynan. England: Tries Hopley, Bracken, Adebayo; Drop goal Challinor; Conversion Pears; Penalty Pears (2).

BRITISH COLUMBIA: S Stewart (UBC Old Boys); S Gray (Vancouver Kats), M Williams (Vancouver Meralomas), M Doyle (Vancouver Kats), B Ebl (Vancouver Kats); J Graf (UBC Old Boys), C Tynan (Vancouver Meralomas, capt); J Hayes (Vancouver Meralomas); M Cardinal (James Bay), D Jackart (UBC Old Boys), J Knauer (Vancouver Meralomas), I Cooper (Vancouver Rowing Club), I Gordon (James Bay), C Mackenzie (UBC Old Boys), G Mackinnon (Ex Brit Lions). Replacements: G Rees (Oak Bay Castaways), B Breen (Vancouver Meralomas).

ENGLAND: D Pears (Harlequins); N Beal (Northampton), P de Glanville (Bath), D Hopley (Wasps), C Oti (Wasps); P Challinor (Harlequins), M Dawson (Northampton); G Rountree (Leicester), J Olver (Northampton, capt), V Ubogu (Bath), A Blackmore (Bristol), M Johnson (Leicester), J Hall (Bath), S Ojomoh (Bath), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: A Adebayo (Bath), K Bracken (Bristol).

Referee: K Morrison (Victoria).