Woodward seethes after Shaw's red card

New Zealand 36 England 12
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The Independent Online

Simon Shaw, the nearest thing to a pacifist it is possible to find in the gung-ho environment of an international scrum, became only the third Englishman to be sent off at Test level in more than 560 matches spread across well over a century as the world champions disappeared in another cloud of All Black smoke at Eden Park yesterday.

Simon Shaw, the nearest thing to a pacifist it is possible to find in the gung-ho environment of an international scrum, became only the third Englishman to be sent off at Test level in more than 560 matches spread across well over a century as the world champions disappeared in another cloud of All Black smoke at Eden Park yesterday.

The lock forward's dismissal for dropping a knee on an opponent at a ruck in the 11th minute was ironic in the extreme, for his victim was the ultra-aggressive Keith Robinson. Needless to say, nobody in the tourists' camp saw the funny side.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Both Clive Woodward, the England coach, and Lawrence Dallaglio, the captain, made their feelings known - Woodward was particularly critical of the decision, made by the Welsh referee, Nigel Williams, on a recommendation from Stuart Dickinson, his Australian touch-judge - and their views were shared by the rank-and-file players, who were reluctantly diplomatic in public but incandescent in private.

Woodward, who may have cause to regret his all-guns-blazing reaction when he and Shaw attend today's disciplinary hearing at a downtown Auckland hotel, condemned the dismissal as a "ridiculous call, a massive overreaction that ruined a good Test match". The coach viewed the incident in a television broadcasting wagon immediately after the final whistle and quickly reached the conclusion that Shaw had been hard done by.

"Robinson was on the wrong side of the ruck, killing our ball," he spluttered in disbelief. "This is a tough place to play rugby, and if you're on the wrong side you expect to get sorted out. Shaw couldn't get his leg high enough to actually stand on him, so he put his knee between his shoulder blades to let him know he was there. Then the touch judge ran on shouting, 'Red card, knee in the head'. When Simon came off, he said, 'It's absolute bullshit'. If he says it's bullshit, it's bullshit. I believe him.

"I'll be very interested to see what happens now. When we came down here last year and beat the All Blacks in Wellington, one of their players, Ali Williams, stamped on Josh Lewsey's head and was let off by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. It does leave a sour taste, I have to say. I think one of the things that swayed the officials was the reaction of the crowd when it all kicked off. I'm not sure it's very clever to show replays of these incidents on the big screen. It's not something we do at Twickenham."

Few of those who watched last week's roughhouse of a match in Dunedin, where the All Blacks scored three unanswered tries and humiliated their opponents 36-3, expected this second meeting to resemble high tea on the vicarage lawn. The England players, embarrassed by firing 80 minutes' worth of blanks at Carisbrook and angered by their inability to deal with what they saw as illegal New Zealand tactics at the breakdown, vowed to draw a line in the sand at Eden Park, and drew it. Robinson, a tough hombre from the wilds of Waikato, was involved in an early scrap at the line-out and had incurred the wrath of several visiting forwards by the time Shaw aimed the fateful knee in his direction.

As Dallaglio pointed out, the dismissal effectively decided the game. In the 10 minutes prior to Shaw's departure, the English forwards had caused the All Blacks more grief than in the whole of the opening Test.

They scrummaged superbly, looked sharp at the line-out, governed the loose exchanges through some outstanding work by the captain and his flankers and earned Charlie Hodgson, a revelation at outside-half, two early pen-alties. Indeed, Hodgson would have opened up a nine-point advantage had the referee not reversed a penalty in front of the All Blacks posts as a result of Shaw's misdemeanour.

A man short, and light in the back row because Dallaglio was forced to join Steve Borthwick in the engine-room, England continued to fight the good fight with enormous spirit, but once Daniel Carter claimed the opening try after 39 minutes of a 51-minute first half, the prospects of survival were about as great as those enjoyed by Scott of the Antarctic. After the break, the All Blacks tightened up their act, played with a degree of precision and patience entirely absent before the interval, and ran in four more tries.

Joe Rokocoko, the Fijian-born wing with a running style to die for, had manufactured Carter's game-breaking score with a glorious cruise past Fraser Waters and Andy Gomarsall. He now proceeded to slaughter England single-handedly with tries on 47, 56 and 68 minutes.

If the first was fairly straightforward - Nick Evans, making his first Test start at full-back, ushered him in at the left corner - the second was a gem, created by Xavier Rush and the brilliant Auckland hooker Keven Mealamu with their shrewd management of a big overlap going left. The third was different again. This time, Rokocoko leapt high to pluck a Carlos Spencer cross-kick out of the heavens and complete the touch-down in one marvellously athletic movement.

Spencer rubbed another bucket of salt in the open English wound with a fifth try a couple of minutes from time, but to all intents and purposes, the result had been decided more than an hour earlier. Sad, very sad.

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