Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rugby: All Blacks wrap up English test series with emphatic 44-12 win

Sat, 21 Jun 2008 9:30p.m.

The All Blacks capped a nightmare week for English rugby but may have suffered some injury horrors of their own in a 44-12 second test thrashing of the tourists here tonight.

The two-test series was all-but wrapped up when New Zealand led 20-0 at halftime but the crowd at AMI Stadium would have spent more time discussing an injury that forced captain Richie McCaw from the field.

World class flanker McCaw limped off in the 28th minute favouring his left ankle but the diagnosis was unclear. He appeared to twist it awkwardly when falling in an incident behind play and it remains to be seen whether he will miss at least the first test of the Tri-Nations against South Africa on July 5.

An ankle injury also forced lock Ali Williams off in the 15th minute, leaving the All Blacks’ pack thin on experience.

It did not matter against an English side who were again competitive up front but, as in last week's 20-37 loss in Auckland, lacked attacking firepower and were carved open too easily.

The score-line and pattern to the test were un-eerily similar to last weekend, with the All Blacks scoring just one extra try in a 5-2 advantage while first five-eighth Daniel Carter once again contributed 22 points from a try and seven-from-seven shots at goal.

As with last week, a blow-out was threatened but New Zealand failed to press home their advantage after leading 37-7 with 20 minutes to play.

England came into the match under a blanket of controversy, with four unnamed members of their squad under police investigation for an alleged incident at their Auckland hotel last Sunday morning.

They never mounted the challenge tonight and suffered a sixth straight loss to the All Blacks for the second time in history. No other nation has beaten the English in six consecutive tests.

Despite the similarities to Eden Park, it was an improved New Zealand effort, with the lineout and breakdown work an improvement up front while Kahui made an excellent debut in a backline that threatened throughout.

New Zealand were on the board in the first minute through a Carter penalty after a typical McCaw turnover.

In the 12th minute Carter slipped the tackle of England second five-eighth Jamie Noon, introduced to shore up their leaky first-test defence, and slipped a delightful inside ball to centre Richard Kahui who galloped under the crossbar on test debut.

Carter extended the lead with a 23rd minute penalty and was in the thick of it soon afterwards when he gathered his own chip kick but was held up over the try-line.

From the resulting scrum he crossed from a slick move with halfback Andy Ellis and the 20-point margin inside half an hour effectively wrapped up the series.

England came close to scoring twice but fullback Mathew Tait spilled a loose ball over the try-line and winger Tom Varndell was pushed out in the corner by All Blacks No 15 Leon MacDonald.

Replacement first five-eighth Olly Barkley summed up England's night when he somehow missed a penalty shot from directly in front one minute after halftime.

Carter made no mistake in the 44th minute but England crossed for their only try soon afterwards through halfback Danny Care, skirting the defence from a quickly tapped free kick.
Second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu stretched the advantage when he stormed onto a pass from winger Sitiveni Sivivatu after nice link work from MacDonald.

England centre Mike Tindall was given a yellow card for slowing possession and they paid the price almost immediately when reserve No 8 Sione Lauaki barged over from a scrum.

The visitors defied their numerical disadvantage by mounting pressure and sending Varndell over but reserve halfback Jimmy Cowan had the final say, rolling over for a try after the final hooter.

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