What was all that about, you ask? Three things, principally. A worrying injury to that most fragile of game-breaking backs, Iain Balshaw, just when he was threatening to give his country an attacking dimension to match the All Black model; the rank stupidity of the fixture planner responsible for spoon-feeding an exhausted team of South American amateurs to a pack of professionals bristling with wolfish intent; and an act of profound gormlessness by Joe Worsley, who single-handedly confirmed the whole of Australia in its anti-Englishness. Arrogant bastards? Suddenly, it is difficult to argue.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Worsley caught Joaquin Pastore, the Uruguayan wing, with a tackle so high that he needed extra oxygen to deliver it. It was dangerous, too - hard, fast and straight into his victim's throat. Unsurprisingly, he received a yellow card. What happened next was less predictable. As he walked to the bench with the innocent expression of a man who knew he was as guilty as sin, the Wasps flanker celebrated his moment by vigorously applauding a group of England supporters. Inappropriate behaviour? This was booze-up-in-a-convent territory.
Worsley is hardly the epitome of a stuck-up, swaggering Pom - he comes from Welwyn Garden City, for heaven's sake. But he got this one horribly wrong, as Clive Woodward underlined afterwards. "Was it a bright thing to do? No, it wasn't, and I'm not at all happy about it," the coach fumed. "It was a bad error, and I've had serious words with Joe. I apologise. Apart from anything else, the Uruguayan guy was still flat on his back and under treatment."
Pressed on the subject, Woodward said that formal disciplinary action was not on the agenda. "We all make mistakes; a rebuke is sufficient," he said, with an end-of-story air. The story surrounding Balshaw is likely to be more prolonged. Five minutes into the second half, after 40 minutes of spellbinding brilliance that had earned the Bath wing two tries and created endless opportunities for his colleagues, he ran the ball out of his 22, clattered into Nicolas Brignoni and Joaquin de Freitas, and departed on a stretcher. It did not look good, to say the least.
"The doctor's initial diagnosis is a minor ankle strain, so Iain will probably be going home tomorrow," the coach said with all the irony he could muster. It was a smart response. After the extraordinary shenanigans concerning England's walking wounded - Dawson, Bracken, Hill, Uncle Tom Cobley and all - not even Woodward expected this announcement to be taken at face value. If, when he is assessed tomorrow, Balshaw is found to be suffering from something worthy of the excruciating expression on his gaunt features, the red rose army will have lost one of their most potent weapons.
Nostradamus would not have struggled too hard to predict an English victory of record-breaking magnitude in this game. Uruguay played their cup final in Sydney last Tuesday night, and by beating Georgia they fulfilled their limited destiny. They were in physical and emotional pieces throughout their offensively short build-up to this fixture, and knew the moment they arrived in Queensland that their chances of raising themselves one last time were close to zero. Their class players, the No 8 Rodrigo Capo and the hooker Diego Lamelas foremost among them, played superbly, but the cause was utterly hopeless. When England introduced Jason Robinson and Martin Johnson from the bench five minutes into the second half, it was effectively a 50-point substitution.
England clattered along at a point a minute in the first period, and at even greater velocity after the interval. Josh Lewsey, overshadowed by Balshaw while both men were on view, ended up with five tries, thereby emulating both Rory Underwood of recent vintage and Dan Lambert of ages past. For all his free-running exuberance, Lewsey will be peering over his shoulder at events in the medical room. Balshaw has something on him - call it the x-factor - and if it boils down to a straight choice between the two, Woodward will be sorely tempted to pick the Bath man.
Of the other players under debate, both Andy Gomarsall and Mike Catt emerged with five-star reports. Gomarsall's passing from scrum-half looked sharper and more sympathetic than that of either of his rivals, Matt Dawson and Kyran Bracken, although he faced nothing like the tackle-area carnage that had complicated English efforts against South Africa and Samoa.
Catt repeatedly exposed the Uruguayans' defensive frailties with beautifully judged long passes and the occasional blast of the after-burner. A late candidate for the major business ahead? Definitely.
Lawrence Dallaglio was another who could be heard shouting from the rooftops; something of a relief, given that Woodward had established the former captain as the Iain Duncan Smith of the England team by publicly bemoaning his quietude. Dallaglio's was not an error-free performance - once again, England were on the wrong end of a high penalty count, to which the No 8 contributed handsomely - but he worked ridiculously hard from the first minute to the last, and shaded a compelling contest with the ever-willing Capo.
Dallaglio is by no means the player of five, even three, years ago; a knee reconstruction after the 2001 Lions tour slowed him considerably and forced him into a tighter, more abrasive style of route-one rugby. Against wide-running sides like Samoa, his shortcomings tend to be magnified; against direct, heavyweight forwards like Capo and company, he remains a mighty proposition. During the 45 minutes Johnson spent on the bench, the England team turned to Dallaglio for leadership. He met the responsibility with his customary bullishness, and should prosper from here on in.
There is little point recording the fine detail of England's 17 tries; every time Gomarsall flicked the ball into space, a score was inevitable. Early in the second half, when the South Americans were all but dead on their feet, the five-pointers came thick and fast: 41 minutes, 42 minutes, 49, 50, 53, 57, 62. For all the adventurousness of Catt and his brethren, it was depressing to watch.
"This was the fight of the mouse against the lion," the Uruguayan manager, Daniel Eduardo, said. Or to put it another way, a pointless exercise with too many points.
England: Tries Lewsey 5, Balshaw 2, Catt 2, Gomarsall 2, Robinson 2, Moody, Luger, Abbott, Greenwood; Conversions Grayson 11, Catt 2. Uruguay: Try Lemoine; Conversion Menchaca; penalties Menchaca 2.
ENGLAND: J Lewsey (Wasps); I Balshaw (Bath), S Abbott (Wasps), M Catt (Bath), D Luger (Perpignan); P Grayson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); J Leonard (Harlequins), D West (Leicester), P Vickery (Gloucester, capt), M Corry (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), J Worsley (Wasps), L
Moody (Leicester), L Dallaglio (Wasps). Replacements: J Robinson (Sale) for Balshaw, 45; M Johnson (Leicester) for Corry, 45; J White (Leicester) for Vickery, 15; W Greenwood (Harlequins) for Grayson, 66; K Bracken (Saracens) for Gomarsall, 66;
URUGUAY: J R Menchaca (Carrasco Polo); J Pastore (Old Boys), D Aguirre (Carrasco Polo, capt), J De Freitas (Champagnat), J Viana (Old Boys); S Aguirre (Carrasco Polo), J Campomar (Old Boys); E Berruti (Old Christians), D Lamelas (Alumni), P Lemoine (Stade Français), J C Bado (Colomiers), J M Alvarez (Carrasco Polo), N Brignoni (L'Aquila), N Grille (El Trebol), R Capo (Castres). Replacements: D Reyes (Carrasco Polo) for De Freitas, 6-10 and 38-40, and for Vian, 55; R Sanchez (Carrasco Polo) for Berruti, 46; M Guttierrez (Old Christians) for Grille, 46; J Alzueta (El Trebol) for Alvarez, 55; J A Perez (Old Boys) for Lamelas, 60; G Storace (Old Christians) for Lemoine, 75; E Caffera (Champagnat) for Menchaca, 76;
Referee: N Williams (Wales).Reuse content