Rugby Union: Mismatch of the century

World Cup qualifiers: Guscott and Back lead 16-try destruction of Holland but England learn little
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England 110 Holland 0

Tries: Back 4, penalty try,

Greenwood, Guscott 4, Cockerill, Corry, Dawson, Luger, Healy, Beal

Cons: Grayson 15

Half-time: 47-0 Attendance: 9,000

A BRASS band welcomed the Netherlands to the McAlpine Stadium here with that Yorkshire favourite, Tulips from Amsterdam but what the Dutch really needed was a fixture against a Max Bygraves XV.

Instead, England duly buried their opponents in this facile World Cup qualifier.

Ah, the romanticism of the World Cup; a little non-rugby playing nation against the might of England went the way everybody imagined, including the Dutch captain Mats Marcker who said he broke out into a cold sweat whenever he thought of the prospect. Had it been a boxing match it would never have taken place; had it been a rugby match instead of wholesale slaughter it might have been interesting.

England awarded caps for this match; the Dutch should have been issued with a public health warning. They had their finger in the dyke for all of four minutes, the time it took for England to set up a rolling maul and for Neil Back to score the first of 16 tries. Back went on to score four (equalling the record of the Australian back row forward Greg Cornelsen for Australia in 1978), as did the centre Jeremy Guscott.

By half-time it was 47-0. What would Clive Woodward, the England coach, say to his men during the break? "Well done lads, keep up the good work. Let's go for the World record." What would Geoff Old, the Dutch coach, have said? "Well done lads, keep up the good work. Let's avoid a world record."

Before the match Old had questioned the wisdom of pitting a major power against an emerging country. Instead, Old thought it would be better for the world's fringe players to compete against each other in a plate competition. He has a point, 110 of them to be precise.

England, of course, had no option but to make the most of the mismatch and after a few minutes of the second half they exceeded their previous highest total, 60, for an international. If you are going to be picky, England can be criticised for some slip-shod passing and handling. It was nowhere near perfect; on occasions passes went behind the receiver or fell short. At times it looked amateurish, something which Holland could identify with.

The Dutch, who have only three full-time players, were comprised of students, carpenters, a policeman, a radiologist and a computer consultant. The latter was needed to keep abreast of the score.

What can one say of Holland, a country only recently converted to the union cause? Against overwhelming odds they tackled courageously and remained, bless their orange socks, enthusiastic to the bitter end.

And they could have done with a more sympathetic referee. Roger Duhau gave them nothing. Indeed, his decision to award England a penalty try in the seventh minute was akin to pouring water on a drowning man. At that point England led 7-0 when Austin Healey chipped ahead down the left wing and as the ball rolled over the Dutch line he and his opposite number Obbe Winkels went for it together. Winkels appeared to win the race but the referee ruled that he had obstructed Healey and signalled a penalty try. It would have been a controversial decision under normal circumstances but in a one-horse race it was almost scandalous.

The Dutch won only a handful of penalties, only one of them within kicking distance but the centre Garron Everts, who plays for Reading, blew his chance of glory by missing from 30-yards in the 14th minute.

Thereafter it was one-way traffic. Guscott got the first of his tries in the 16th minute and ran in three more on the trot midway through the second half as the Dutch defence began to tire.

Back had scored three before the interval, the first hat-trick of tries from an England forward in an international. He added another in the second half and, in fact, might have had more but for passing to team-mates even though he himself was unmarked.

Holland's hopeless cause was not helped by the fact that Paul Grayson, the Northampton stand-off, was in excellent kicking form. Grayson, re- united on the international stage with his club-mate Matt Dawson, kicked 15 conversions, some of them from the touchline.

England brought on fresh legs, as if they were needed, in the second half for an occasion which amounted to nothing more than a run out. They face the more serious challenge of Italy in a World Cup qualifier at the same venue on Sunday. With two teams from the pool of three qualifying for the finals in Wales next autumn, the qualifying stage is not exactly gripped with intrigue.

As for the Dutch they have only a few days to lick their wounds before facing Italy here on Wednesday. Tickets for that match are not exactly selling like hot cakes.

This was England's first full international match at the imposing McAlpine Stadium, although an Emerging England team played the All Blacks in Huddersfield last year. On reflection, perhaps this wasn't a full international after all, given that England were up against an emerging Dutch team.

As Holland's players ran on to the pitch before the start they could not help but look at the World Cup itself, which was sitting on a pedestal near the half-way line. It is, after all, probably the nearest they will ever come to it.

England: M Perry (Bath); A Healey, W Greenwood (both Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), D Luger (Harlequins); P Grayson, M Dawson (both Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill, D Garforth (both Leicester), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), G Archer (Newcastle), B Clarke (Richmond), M Corry, N Back (both Leicester) Replacements: N Beal (Northampton) for Perry 51, R Hill (Saracens) for Clarke 51, T Rodber (Northampton) for Archer 51, G Rowntree (Leicester) for Garforth 51.

Holland: A Webber (London Kiwis); O Winkels (Haagsche RC), R van de Walle (Leidse RC/DIOK), G Everts (Reading), G Viguurs (Den Bosch); B Vervoort (Oisterwijk), M Marcker (Castricum, capt); J J van de Esch (West Hartlepool), A Seybel (Haagsche RC), R Philippo, P Faas (Oisterwijk), R Donkers (Roosenedaal CC/Bekaro), R van de Ven (Peyrehorade), C Elisara (Wakefield), N Holten (Waikato). Replacements: S Ramaker (Rotterdam RC/Homeko) for B Verwoort 61, R Lips (Haagsche RC) for M Marcker 76

Referee: R Duhau (France)

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