Jonathan Davies: Wanted: a touch of the Jasons

England have to think hard on their lack of a cutting edge

Considering all the great possession they had in the second half, and considering they were playing against 14 men for well over 20 minutes, they have to think long and hard about their lack of a cutting edge. The big difference between the sides was behind the scrum, where England felt the lack of a player like Jason Robinson, a man with great feet who can go one-on-one and set up an attack.

There is no doubt that England are a force again. Andy Robinson has constructed a mean machine up front, but they will have a limited effect if those behind are not going to make full use of the ball when it is won for them.

Even so, there was no question of the English pack dominating the All Blacks like they did against Australia the previous week. They were strong in the scrum but they didn't control them as they expected to, and their line-out work was poor.

New Zealand competed very well in the line-out. They guessed correctly and put the pressure on. They might not have gained as much possession as they have been used to, but when they did get the opportunity their sleight of hand and their support work was a pleasure to watch.

They were let down by their handling at times in this match but they make the right decisions more often than any other side in the world. Some of their moves yesterday were breathtaking and almost impossible to defend against.

They could have had more tries yesterday, but England never looked like running the ball over the line. I liked the way England approached the game, and they were justly rewarded for their storming start when skipper Martin Corry was pushed over in the fourth minute.

I thought Matt Dawson had an excellent match and it was his charging-down of a defensive kick that led to England's great start. His block nearly led to a try. Dan Carter lost his footing as he reached the ball and by flicking it over the touch-in-goal line he gave a penalty away. But that was more acceptable than an England touchdown.

England demonstrated their confidence by going for the catch-and-drive rather than the posts, and it paid off for them.

But just 10 minutes later Carter showed what a great player he is when he noticed he had two forwards against him. He swerved between the two, sold a lovely dummy and flicked into the path of Tana Umaga for a try that promised more.

Credit England for stopping the Kiwis ruling the roost with a storming performance that is going to make them a fearful handful in the Six Nations. But in going for forward power they have put themselves back where they were before they began their World Cup-winning campaign. They had to add another dimension to their play then, and they will have to do that now.

In Corry they have a good leader, but they urgently need more incisive players to cash in. They will be happy with yesterday's performance, if not the result, but to have had 65 per cent possession against a depleted side and still lost amounts to a failure. They could take notice of how New Zealand compete so aggressively in the contact area. If they don't win it, they slow it down.

Thanks to the vigilance of the Irish referee, Alan Lewis, the All Blacks had three players sent to the sin-bin because of this - but they still won.

Comments