Rugby Union: England's sweetest triumph: All Blacks defeated by an all-consuming effort as debutant Callard hits the jackpot on a day of days

Click to follow
The Independent Online
England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Penalties: Callard (4). Drop: Andrew

New Zealand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Penalties: Wilson (3)

Attendance: 68,000

THERE may, in England's proud rugby history, have been more elegant and handsome victories but seldom, surely, has one been gained with such single-minded determination. This was a triumph of mind over matter. As a contest, scarlet in tooth and claw, it was volcanic. It is, I suppose, a tribute to the All Blacks, although of no consolation to them in their hour of defeat (their first on this tour), that this was the greatest day in the lives of the 15 heroes who had the privilege of representing England. The final moments at Twickenham, with New Zealand throwing their collective might into scoring the try they needed to have any chance of winning, were almost stupefyingly intense.

The All Blacks, with their power and rigid plays, required all their resourcefulness in those final minutes but still England kept them at bay. They will, of course, reflect on five missed penalties by Jeff Wilson, the stand-in goal-kicker for the injured Matt Cooper, and on the profligacy of their forwards, notably their back-row trio, in giving away so many penalties.

England's forwards were no innocents and were never going to be led to the slaughter as the Scots had been the previous week, but few would have predicted the sustained fury with which they took the game to their opponents. It is one thing to boast about the possibility of victory, it is something else to have the unshakeable confidence to do it. But England's forwards possessed the self-belief without which no side can hope to beat New Zealand.

Their line-out, which had looked so vulnerable shorn of Martin Bayfield's massive presence, was magnificent with 10 of their 22 clean takes coming from their opponents' throws. This gave young Kyran Bracken the chance to settle in at scrum-half and, despite carrying an injury for most of the game, he came through his ordeal triumphantly.

England put their faith in the indispensable virtues of organised forward play and impregnable defence. Rodber, Richards and Clarke clattered into the All Blacks' midfield time and again, draining even their limitless energy. Victor Ubogu was another dagger aimed at the tourists' heart and frequently broke through the outer ring of their defence to give his supporting forwards the momentum they required to recycle the ball cleanly and accurately.

Even when the All Blacks regrouped and came back most strongly at the start of the second half and in the final 10 minutes, England never once betrayed signs of panic or defensive frailty with the result that, as they had done in the second Test against the Lions in Wellington, the All Blacks were eventually bankrupt of ideas.

Poor Wilson. The hero last week at Murrayfield and now the villain at Twickenham, he will do well to treat with disdain those twin impostors of triumph and disaster. Jon Callard, on the other hand, given the terrifying responsibility of kicking England's goals, succeeded with four penalties from six attempts and in his general play surely purged himself of the memory of his previous encounters against this touring side.

Throughout the raging battle, all the way to its tremendous climax, it went almost unnoticed that some of the rugby was of woefully poor quality. Too much kicking down the touchlines and too many unforced errors. But the crowd, now intoxicated by the play, couldn't care less. There were, in any case, some dazzling passages played at a dizzying pace and in this too England were superior. One rapier thrust to Tony Underwood's wing sent him hurtling for the line, only for him to be brought down a few inches short by John Timu's wondrous tackle. Underwood escaped on another couple of occasions and in defence will receive the same gallantry awards as his colleagues.

New Zealand came almost as close in those breathless closing seconds when Timu was adjudged to have put a foot in touch and here again Ubogu had performed miracles to get within touching distance of the New Zealand full-back. And despite trying every trick and device known to them, the visitors met only the solid white wall of England's defence.

There were never more than six points between the sides, Callard kicking two penalties, after Eroni Clarke's senseless late tackle on Will Carling and the second after Arran Pene had been caught loitering with intent behind England's lines. Astonishingly, the All Blacks failed to learn the error of their ways and later in the match, at a much more important stage, Zinzan Brooke was penalised for the same infringement. It met with the same result, a Callard penalty.

The All Blacks were given some encouragement and hope when Wilson at last succeeded in converting a penalty after three misses. He kicked two more later in the game but with time running out and Sean Fitzpatrick, his captain, still retaining faith in him when he might more profitably have sought other avenues, the youngster missed twice more. It was now that Rob Andrew's vast experience came to his country's aid. Earlier in the match he had struck a perfect drop goal after his forwards had won clean line-out possession and had rocked the All Blacks back into their 22. Now he took control in deep defence, kicking accurately for touch and providing the cool and calm so necessary in the heat of the battle.

Not even the All Blacks could come back now. They had no more to give and England had won a day which has restored pride and dignity to the British game.

The England captain, Will Carling, said afterwards: 'I hope people do not now build up too many expectations of us. This is a new team, but there were new stars out there. I was very happy with our basic discipline as you have to be very patient against the All Blacks.'

ENGLAND: J Callard (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), P de Glanville (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), K Bracken (Bristol); J Leonard (Harlequins), B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), N Redman (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton), D Richards (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: I Hunter (Northampton), S Barnes (Bath), M Dawson (Northampton), G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe (Bath), J Hall (Bath).

NEW ZEALAND: J Timu (Otago); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), M Cooper (Waikato), V Tuigamala (Auckland); M Ellis (Otago), S Forster (Otago); C Dowd (Auckland), S Fitzpatrick (Auckland, capt), O Brown (Auckland), I Jones (North Auckland), S Gordon (Waikato), J Joseph (Otago), A Pene (Otago), Z Brooke (Auckland). Replacements: E Clarke (Auckland), J Preston (Wellington), B Larsen (North Harbour), P Henderson (Southland), M Allen (Taranaki), N Hewitt (Hawke's Bay).

Referee: F Burger (South Africa).

(Photograph and table omitted)

Comments