Rugby Union: England submerged by Miller

England 22 New Zealand 59
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The Independent Online
Emerging England 22 New Zealand 59

The storm clouds have been gathering since the All Blacks arrived in these islands just over a fortnight ago and last night, they broke with a vengeance over unprotected English heads. If Todd Blackadder's second- string outfit can be dismissed as dirt-trackers, they must be the most gilt-edged also-rans ever to play the game. Certainly, the likes of Josh Kronfeld, Todd Miller and Carlos Spencer - not to mention a certain Jonah Lomu - would grace any Test arena in the world.

Blackadder's Blacks ran in eight superb tries at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium while England's reply was restricted to five penalties from Paul Grayson, three of them in the opening five minutes, and an injury-time try from Nick Greenstock. The New Zealand performance was cultured, clinical and, at times, classical in execution. It was also cataclysmic for English morale as they turned their attention to a two-Test series.

The tourists may not have appreciated England's decision to cram their Emerging line-up with a dozen full internationals, but the high quality of participants on both sides guaranteed a number of intriguing head-to- head duels, not least the one between the two hookers, Mark Regan and Anton Oliver.

Encouraged by Sean Fitzpatrick's unavailability for Saturday's Test at Old Trafford - the veteran All Black captain has again been forced to give best to his annoyingly persistent knee - Oliver was clearly motivated for this one. If anything, though, Regan had even more to play for. Overlooked in favour of his young Bath club-mate Andy Long, for last weekend's draw with the Wallabies, the ever-enthusiastic Lion tore into the fray sure in the knowledge that England's No 2 shirt was again up for grabs.

He knew that big questions would be asked and that answers were required.

The biggest question of all was posed early, in the 10th minute to be precise. The tourists opted for a set-piece rather than a kick at goal and worryingly, Oliver and company were able to wheel the back row defence out of position and create a simple try for Kronfeld.

Even though the score failed to wipe out Grayson's flurry of early three- pointers, it served ample motives of the All Blacks' razor-sharp attacking edge.

Eight minutes later when Walter Little's one-handed pick-up put the English on the wrong foot, enabling Kronfeld and Scott McLeod to work Lomu over unchallenged in the left corner.

Disappointingly England, found it beyond them to take advantage of the odd occasion when their front row worked their way into the ascendent.

The worst example saw Chris Sheasby lose possession of a valuable ball on the All Black 22 and Jim Mallinder, compounded the error by kicking loosely to Miller.

The Waikato full-back kicked rather more intelligently down the left touchline, McLeod performed a passable impersonation of the outstanding Kronfeld to win possession on the floor and Steve Surridge's finish could not have been more straightforward.

Sixteen points adrift at the break at 9-25 the second half was all about Miller. The diminutive 22-year-old as he rampaged - no, floated - through an increasingly fraught English defence for three tries between the 51st and 73rd minutes. With Charles Riechelmann, very much a new-age second row, also plotting a route to the line and Lomu grabbing a second score in the last minutes, the rout was complete.

Emerging England: Try Greenstock; Conversion Grayson; Penalties Grayson 5. New Zealand: Tries Miller 3, Lomu 2, Kronfeld, Reichelemann, Surridge; Conversions Spencer 5; Penalties Spencer 3.

EMERGING ENGLAND: J Mallinder (Sale); J Bentley (Newcastle), N Greenstock (Wasps), M Allen (Northampton), T Beim (Sale), P Grayson (Northampton), A Healey (Leicester); G Rowntree (Leicester), M Regan (Bath), D Garforth (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), D Grewcock (Saracens), R Jenkins (Harlequins), C Sheasby (Wasps), N Back (Leicester; capt). Replacements: M Corry (Leicester) for Jenkins, 56; K Yates (Bath) for Garforth, 60; N McCarthy (Gloucester) for Regan, 78; D Sims (Gloucester) for Shaw, 78.

NEW ZEALAND: T Miller (Waikato); T Umaga (Wellington), S McLeod (Wakiato), W Little (North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); C Spencer (Auckland), M Robinson (North Harbour); M Allen (Central Vikings), A Oliver (Otago), G Slater (Taranaki), M Cooksley (Waikato), C Riechelmann (Auckland), T Blackadder (Canterbury; capt), S Surridge (Canterbury), J Kromfeld (Otago). Replacements: A Hopa (Waikato) for Surridge, 60; J Stanley (Auckland) for Umaga, 71.

Referee: P Deluca (Argentina).