Rugby Union: Grewcock sees Black and red

New Zealand 64 England 22 Tries: Cullen 2, Randell 2, Tries: Beim, Cockerill, Dawson Wilson 2, Kronfeld, Lomu, M ayerholfer Cons: Stimpson 2 Cons: Mehrtens 5 Pens: Stimpson Pens: Mehrtens 3 Half-time: 26- 8 Attendance: 36,500
Click to follow
The Independent Online
FUN and games at the House of Pain. England fought, sometimes quite literally, to restore a modicum of the pride so embarrassingly forfeited in Brisbane a fortnight ago and much to the annoyance of Taine Randell's multi-talented All Black machine, they made a decent fist of the most thankless task in red rose history. But the tourists paid a heavy price in pursuit of respectability; Danny Grewcock's dismissal on the half-hour left them a man short and wide open to a nine-try rampage inspired by an almost uncatchable Christian Cullen.

Grewcock became only the second Englishman to be sent off in a Test in a century and a quarter of international business; Mike Burton, the Gloucester prop, preceded him in Sydney 23 years ago. By way of coincidence, it was an Australian referee, Wayne Erickson, who spotted the Saracens lock planting one of his size 12s flush on the head of Anton Oliver, the New Zealand hooker, as a scrum collapsed on the visitors' line.

Ironically, Grewcock's direct opponent, Ian Jones, had subjected the England prop, Graham Rowntree, to even rougher treatment as early as the ninth minute. Erickson missed that particular assault but the television cameras were more on the ball - or, rather, the boot - and Jones was duly cited for foul play by the match commissioner. For the record, Rowntree escaped with two stitches beneath his left eye, which had been in dangerous proximity to Jones's studs.

In the fast, physical and hugely confrontational 30-minute spell before Grewcock fell prey to the red mist, England had proved themselves perfectly capable of standing toe to toe with an unusually fraught and slapdash All Black outfit. Almost as soon as the big middle jumper disappeared down the Carisbrook tunnel, however, the writing appeared on the wall in block capitals. Cullen crossed for two flashing tries and Jonah Lomu contributed one of his trademark human bulldozer efforts to put the New Zealanders out of sight. Seventeen points in something like seven minutes. Thank you, England, and good night.

Cullen's opener was a relatively routine affair, the full-back capitalising on England's retreating seven-man scrum to give Nick Beal the slip around the short side on 31 minutes. His second, five minutes later, was all about pace, the single most precious attribute in modern day Test rugby. Matt Perry, a brave and accomplished last line of defence for England, was rucked off the ball in midfield and before he could regain his feet, Mark Mayerhofler had punted downfield, apparently more in hope than expectation. When Cullen is on fire, however, hope springs eternal; the Wellington man skinned both Beal and Tim Stimpson to register the unlikeliest of tries to the left of the posts.

Yet it was Lomu's virtuoso strike that had the passionate Dunedin audience on its feet. Perry had successfully played David to Jonah's Goliath in the 10th minute and when England's most celebrated nemesis again set sail down the left wing four minutes after Grewcock's dismissal, the Bath full- back tumbled him a second time. On this occasion, though, it was not enough; Lomu was back on his feet in a flash to drag Austin Healey, Ben Clarke and Pat Sanderson - some 45 stones of English beef - over the line at the left flag. In short, it was a case of Cape Town Revisited.

Even though Richard Cockerill capped the hardest-working display of his England career with a try bang on the interval - fine break from Matt Dawson, wonderful scoring pass from Phil Vickery - the All Blacks headed for the half-time refreshments with the scent of blood in their nostrils. Sure enough, their third-quarter performance was sharp, snappy and to the point as Otago's home-town trio of Randell, Jeff Wilson and Josh Kronfeld posted another five tries.

To their eternal credit, though, England dredged a mighty final 20 from the depths of their souls and restricted the New Zealanders to a single Mayerhofler try just short of the final whistle. In reply, they manufactured scores for Dawson, a genuine inspiration as captain, and Tom Beim, a second- half replacement for the injured Jonny Wilkinson.

It was a desperately hard encounter - there were wild excesses from both sets of forwards, both before and after Grewcock's premature farewell - and if bad blood between the two sides was evident during the game, it was almost tangible as the two camps swapped allegations in a frenzied and ill-tempered aftermath. Next week's second and final Test in Auckland will be no tea party, unless it turns out to be a rehash of the Boston version.

Can England withstand the trials and traumas of Eden Park? Yes, if their pack performs with as much spirit and old-fashioned "dog" as they displayed yesterday. For all that, the All Blacks will go up a gear in Auckland next Saturday. England will have to go up half a dozen just to stand still.

New Zealand: C Cullen (Wellington); J Wilson (Otago), M Mayerhofler (Canterbury), W Little (North Harbour), J Lomu (Counties); A Mehrtens (Canterbury), O Tonu'u (Auckland); C Dowd (Auckland), A Oliver (Otago), O Brown (Auckland), R Brooke (Auckland), I Jones (North Harbour), M Jones (Auckland), T Randell (capt), J Kronfeld (both Otago). Replacements: T Blackadder (Canterbury) for M Jones, 20; M Robinson (North Harbour) for Tonu'u, 61.

England: M Perry (Bath); T Stimpson (Leicester), N Beal (Northampton), J Lewsey (Bristol), A Healey (Leicester); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton, capt); G Rowntree, R Cockerill (both Leicester), P Vickery (Gloucester), G Archer (Newcastle), D Grewcock (Saracens), B Clarke (Richmond), S Ojomoh (Gloucester), P Sanderson (Sale). Replacements: T Beim (Sale) for Wilkinson, 43; P Greening (Gloucester) for Cockerill, 58; W Green (Wasps) for Vickery, 58; D Sims (Gloucester) for Archer 77.

Referee: W Erickson (Australia).

Comments