A weekend full of rugby started with England v USA, A Women’s match at Allianz Park in the most awful conditions. The USA had a player red carded within the first 10 minutes, the debutant was in tears as she left, it’s a debut she won’t forget. There was some very good rugby played as well as more than a few slippery balls dropped. The final score was England 57 USA, the whole crowd cheered when the USA scored that solitary try! The atmosphere was brilliant and it was great to see so many young people there, both boys and girls.
That outing cost me £10, the ‘big one’ England v New Zealand at Twickenham sea me back £120, a lot of cash, but a match I couldn’t resist. I try to watch the All Blacks whenever I can and have been lucky to see them Paris, Cardiff and of course Twickenham as well as in the World Cup. My seat was Row 70 in the corner of the EastStand, I had hoped I’d a bit more central for that price, but I could at least see everything!
The minutes silence and National Anthems were perfectly observed, which is quite amazing in a full stadium. The Haka some might say wasn’t so well respected, i’m not a huge fan of the Haka being sung over, I like to listen to it. But, when it’s performed in our place I don’t see the need to ‘respect’ what s basically a war cry. The singing was loud and rousing, I’d be very interested to know how or if it had an affect on the England players.
With England scraping a win against South Africa I was unsure about what I was going to witness, I didn’t expect England to come out of the blocks at 100MPH and nor did the All Blacks. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the men in black overwhelmed, but for a good 20 minutes in the first half they were.
A dropped ball at the kick off didn’t help, ironically that was the man who’d go on to take the Man of The Match accolade, Brodie Retallick, things would get better for him.
England’s forwards made the most of their possession and a superb throw from Ben Youngs out to the returning Chris Ashton out on the wing saw the winger sliding in for England’s first try, there were 2 minutes on the clock! The kick was on the touch line and hit the posts.
I’m watching a re-run of the highlights of the game and I have get an early, Sam Underhill! WOW! in. He was simply outstanding throughout the match and was more than instrumental in England being in a position to set Owen Farrell up for a drop goal. It sailed through the posts and England were up 8 nil!
That lead grew when Beauden Barrett was caught offside after the ball was knocked on. England kicked to touch and setup a rolling man from the lineout, it rolled all the way to the line where captain Dylan Hartley dotted the ball down for England’s second try. This was an easier conversion and England were up 15 nil against the World Champions.
Close to the half time Kieran Read turned down a penalty, which might seem a risk for anyone other than this team, the 3 points of course became 7 asFull Back Damian McKenzie took a short pass from Barrett to score. a penalty taken saw the teams go in on England 15 New Zealand 10.
I’m not going to write too much about the second half, I can’t bear to listen to Stuart Barnes all the way through for one thing! The conditions were awful with the pouring rain and the ball slippery, with teams dropped the ball at times.
Dylan Hartley had gone off at half time which seemed a strange decision, Owen Farrell eschewed points a coupe of times seeking a third try, that would be a major factor as the half transpired.
Neither team scored a try in the second 40, England though they had through Sam Underhill after a charge down by Courtney Lawes was deemed to be off side by the TMO. I had a ref link, and the decision took an age to be made, which was beyond frustrating! Sam Underhill skinned Barrett which was poetry in motion. The decision has been a controversial one, but the record books will show no try was scored.
The All Blacks had added two penalties to their tally so were sitting in the lead. England lost 5 line outs in the second half which won’t have helped their cause in the least. Opportunities to take penalties and set up a second drop goal were missed. The victory was New Zealand’s as the final score was England 15 All Blacks 16.
Brodie Retallick was awarded the Man of the Match award, I clapped the announcement which led the man behind me to ask where in New Zealand I was from. I told him I wasn’t and that I don’t boo at rugby, I appreciate good play! I’d clapped the All Blacks try too! New Zealand aren’t Double World Champions for no reason.
There were many positives to take from the game for England, they have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their back row, Mark Wilson has had two great games at 8, Sam Underhill was superb against the All Blacks, my jury is still out on Brad Shields. But we have Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes, Tom Curry and Sam Simmonds all out injured. My biggest concern as England build to the World Cup is the lack of depth at scrum half. They paid for that during the 6 Nations when Ben Youngs was badly injured in Rome, it’s disappointing that one of the young scrum halves in Premiership Rugby hasn’t gained any international experience.