Rugby Union: Richards reigns over Spain

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England A. .66

Spain. . . . 5

THE MESSAGE of a hugely inconsequential and lopsided game such as yesterday's at Richmond is that there is no message. So although several of the England reserves might fancy themselves among the candidates for the Lions tour, there was little they could do even while scoring 11 tries to further their prospects of summering in New Zealand.

The England element among the Lions management and selectors - Geoff Cooke, Dick Best and Derek Morgan - were all present at the Athletic Ground, but it is hard to imagine their minds having been changed in the slightest. Neither could Cooke say his experiment with Steve Ojomoh as an open-side flanker was a success, or a failure for that matter.

The one man who clearly stood out was Dean Richards, and they already knew everything there was to know about him after his 34 full caps. The No 8 scored a pushover try on his A-team debut, just as he did first time out for England seven years and four days previously.

So Richards is dangerous at short range, so what's new? 'Your outstanding players, like Dean, can still hold their shape, do the right things and not get carried away even in a game like this, but most of our players are inexperienced,' Peter Rossborough, one of the England A coaches, said.

The paucity of the opposition was such that England already had seven tries and 40 points before half-time, making it more or less certain that they would exceed the record of 59 they accumulated against the Italians last month. But, in an echo of that match, in the second half they conceded their position of overwhelming superiority by winning a diminished supply of possession and then using it much more poorly than they had before.

England's main problem was an old one: over-elaboration, a failing made more culpable by the early evidence that, by the simple expedient of quickly moving the ball wide, they had the legs of the Spaniards every time. A couple of forward tries by Kevin Dunn and Martin Johnson were followed by a breathtaking procession starting with Paul Hull and continuing with four in a row in 20 minutes by Steve Hackney.

The relative reversal of fortunes was down as much to Spanish stubbornness as England's own increased fallibility. Alberto Malo made a number of morale-boosting changes and eventually Spain even managed a try, but in the end it was the English failure to exploit scoring positions that kept the margin down.

'We don't know beforehand that it's going to be that easy; in fact, we had quite a tough game in Madrid last year,' Rossborough said. 'But I must say our backs were trying to go through their repertoire of moves and we lost concentration. It's hard for the players to motivate themselves in a game like that and hard for us to assess them.'

In fact, Harvey Thorneycroft's try set things back in motion almost as soon as the second half had begun, but once Hull had added his second try and Richard his pushover, the avalanche that might have been anticipated did not materialise.

Indeed, there was only one further addition, by Paul Challinor, in the final quarter and it was the plucky Spaniards, through their scrum-half, Jeronimo Hernandez- Gil, who had the last word. Doubtless it was 'Geronimo-o-o-o]'

England: Tries Hackney 4, Hull 2, Dunn, Johnson, Thorneycroft, Richards, Challinor; Conversions Hull 4; Penalty Hull. Spain: Try Hernandez-Gil.

ENGLAND A: P Hull (Bristol); S Hackney, S Potter (Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), M Dawson (Northampton); C Clark (Swansea), K Dunn (Wasps), D Garforth, M Johnson (Leicester), A Blackmore (Bristol), M Greenwood (Wasps), D Richards (Leicester, capt), S Ojomoh (Bath).

SPAIN: F Puertas (Bayonne, capt); P Gutierrez (Arquitectura), G Rivero (Pollac), A Mino, J Torres, M Sanchez (all Ciencias Sevilla), J Hernandez-Gil (Arquitectura); Jorge Gutierrez (Liceo Frances), F de la Calle (Valladolid), R Lizarza (Atletico Bera Bera), A Malo (Santboiana), V Esnaola (El Salvador), J Etxeberria (Getxo), M Auzmendi (Santboiana), Jaime Gutierrez (Arquitectura). Replacements: A Beloki (Atletico Bera Bera) for Auzmendi, 47; J Diaz (Getxo) for Mino, 65.

Referee: D Davies (Wales).