Rugby Union: Greenwood lights up dull England display

England XV 54 United States XV 6
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The Independent Online
PERFECT IN some ways, a dog's dinner in others. If Clive Woodward pitched up in Northampton last night hoping to sound the all-clear for his two big World Cup injury doubts, his trip was in no way wasted. Paul Grayson swung his kicking leg like Tiger Woods swings his irons - seven goals from eight attempts tells its own story - while Will Greenwood, the most serious concern of all, gained confidence and stature by the second. The English god was indeed in his heaven, with a red rose pinned to his chest.

That, sadly, was about the size of it. Apart from some inspirational flashes from Joe Worsley and an up-and-at-'em performance in the loose from Phil Greening, there was nothing much else with which to trouble Royal Mail. Conditions were hardly ideal as rain freshened up an already quick surface, but much of the second string's work lacked direction and precision.

Unexpectedly, the unfancied visitors played all the early rugby and were distinctly unfortunate to be restricted to two Mark Williams penalties. One forward rush into the English 22 was new-age stuff with knobs on and if Dougald Gillies, Rob Lumkong and Rob Johnston reproduce something similar come the autumn, the Eagles might well give the Irish and Australians something to ponder, let alone the Romanians.

There was something peculiarly one-dimensional about England in the opening half hour, the dimension in question being the set-piece. In a way, the sums added up; the short-and-curlies department is a strength of the red rose game and for all their athleticism and adventure around the field, the Eagles' tight five were so lightweight in the scrummage that Victor Ubogu and company had them squealing inside 30 seconds. A penalty try was always on and sure enough, Derek Bevan awarded a seven-pointer on 16 minutes when the American eight collapsed under pressure.

But there was precious little imagination from 15 Englishmen supposedly staking their World Cup claims. Barrie-Jon Mather may have claimed his side's second try on 33 minutes, but his suspect catching and ball retention earned him a minus vote from the national hierarchy. In fact, the former rugby league professional was history by half-time, replaced by Tim Stimpson.

By way of rubbing it in, Stimpson took England over the hills and far away in the opening seconds of the second half, stretching away down the right touchline for an unchallenged five points, effortlessly improved by Grayson. Greenwood was beginning to cook by this time, an early fumble wiped from the memory in a flurry of weighted passes out of the tackle. It was not quite vintage Greenwood, but good enough after nine months in the physiotherapy department.

That much was made clear 16 minutes into the second period when a sharp outside break and an unusually extravagant back-handed flip created a captain's try for Ben Clarke. The Leicester centre was involved again three minutes later, combining with Trevor Woodman and Martyn Wood to unlock the door for Alex King.

A knee injury to David Rees - will the Sale wing ever last a game? - did not help England's continuity, however, and the consequent revamp probably cost the home side three or four more tries. As it was, Leon Lloyd had to wait until injury time before rounding things off with a try in the left corner. Unless there is a sharpening up all round, he will not claim many of those in October.

England XV: Tries Worsley 2, Penalty try, Mather, Stimpson, Clarke, King, Lloyd; Conversions Grayson 7. United States XV: Penalties Williams 2.

ENGLAND XV: N Beal (Northampton); D Rees (Sale), B-J Mather (Sale), W Greenwood (Leicester), L Lloyd (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), M Wood (Wasps); G Rowntree (Leicester), P Greening (Sale), V Ubogu (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke (Bath, capt), M Corry (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps). Replacements: T Stimpson (Leicester) for Mather, h-t; T Woodman (Gloucester) for Rowntree, 49; W Green (Wasps) for Ubogu, 49; A King (Wasps) for Rees, 51; P Gustard (Leicester) for Corry, 56; N McCarthy for Greening, 60; S Benton (Leeds) for Wood, 68.

UNITED STATES XV: C Morrow (Aspen); B Hightower (Aspen), J Grobler (Denver), T Takau (Aspen), S Uiagalelei (Orange County); M Williams (Aspen, capt), B Howard (Golden Gate); J Clayton (Old Blues), K Khasigian (Univ of California), M L'Huillier (Sydney Univ), R Johnston (Western Suburbs), E Reed (Mission Beach), S Page (Univ of California), R Lumkong (Denver), D Gillies (Aspen). Replacements: K Shuman (Oxford Univ) for Morrow, 61; R Lehner (Old Blues) for L'Huillier, 61; D Hodges (Llanelli) for Johnston, 61; F Mounga (Old Blues) for Gillies, 61; D Nui (Hibernians) for Williams, 65.

Referee: D Bevan (Wales).

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