Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
NZ Maori vs England
9th June, 2003
Ref: Paddy Obrien
Final score: Eng 23 - Maoris 9
Watching this one by myself at Cone Stadium tonight. I figured I would try a stream of consciousness approach to a match report this time, typing directly into my laptop as I watch the game. Let me know on the discussion board if you think it works ok. It's pretty tricky to concentrate on the game and type (especially when you type like I do!!)
Grayson at first-five. Commentators reckon that the only guys in the Eng squad who could force their way into the test team for the weekend are the two props.
Paddy and his TJs seems to have forgotten their reffing jersies so just wears puke yellow polo shirts that he turned up to the ground in, lucky they have a similar lack of dress sense.
First touch of the ball and England rumble it up, the Maoris collapse the maul, twice. The Maoris defence holds though and they get the chance to have the ball for a while themselves. A good kick from Jackson puts them inside the England 22 and a knockon from the resulting lineout give them a scrum in front of the posts. Unfortunately the England front row is pinged before the ball can come out and the Maoris opt for the penalty. 3-0 Maoris
England roll back on attack and their big forwards manage to maintain possession very well and eventually rumble their way across the line for a try, which is then converted. 7-3 Eng
This Maori pack isn't exactly small but they sure look it next to some of these white boys!
Jackson's restart goes dead and the next few minutes of play take place inside the Maori half. Eng dominate possession going but invariably the Maoris are penalised for something before Eng can take much advantage of their possession. Interestingly they kick for touch twice rather than for posts.
Paul Tito, who appears to be the no. 1 option in the Maori lineout is really struggling to win his own ball, with the English locks contesting very well.
Finally Grayson decides to kick for posts from a penalty, 10-3 to ENG. Possession stat shows that Eng have had 90% at this stage. (after 20 min)
Again Jackson's tactical kicking is good and the Maoris force the ENG fullback to kick it out inside their 22.
The Maoris get their first real chance to apply some concerted pressure on the ENG line. They maintain possession but their scrum is under a lot of pressure and after passing up a penalty in favour of another scrum they turn the ball over due to some great pressure from the ENG defense.
They manage to keep in the ENG half though and when given another kickable opportunity they don't pass it up. 10-6 ENG, 27min gone
The Maoris put together their best set piece back move with Jackson and Nicholas chopping over and unleashing Flavell but the ENG cover defense is equal to the task.
Everyone gets "tits-for-hands" as both sides knock on about 10x each in the space of 5 minutes. The resulting scrums continue to be hotly contested, and ugly as a result.
Cully puts a huge punt down field and Fleming and Cullen arrive to put heaps of pressure on the Eng fullback who has to hold on in the end. Maoris back on attack in the ENG 22.
Maoris hammer the line but can't break through and in the end opt to kick for posts when the English are pinged for offsides. Jackson misses.
Another messy period of play, the ability to knockon being the most common skill shown by both sides. Not exactly Champagne rugby... More like flat Fosters (which no doubt the ENG boys would like...)
Nicholas makes another good break, and again finds Flavell on his shoulder for the offload but Flavell can't hold the pass. Flavell's playing pretty well, lots of urgency on defense and looking for work on attack, do you think he's got something to prove? What's more he hasn't done anything particularly thugish yet, surely he can't manage to restrain himself for the entire game?
The ENG end the half with a good period of possession, holding onto the ball for a good two minutes but not really breaking the line, they remind me of the way the Brumbies play. Their best scoring options outwide seemed to be from cross-field kicks, of which they had two definite chances but neither went to hand.
The half-ends, and while it's still anyones game the ENG have definitely had the more chances, particularly in terms of possession. The Maoris have held them out pretty well though and when given a bit of space look far more dangerous, hopefully they get a chance to show that in the second 40.
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Start of the second half and the Maoris try to run in from their half but Eng turn it over at the ruck and then promptly knock it on.
Maori scrum but the Maori half-back Gibson makes another aimless kick to give possession back to Eng. Gibson's running game is good but his kicking and general option taking are pretty average I feel. Of course he did contribute to the Blues win in the Super 12 so maybe I'm biased... :)
Eng get a penalty as Greg Feek (surprise, surprise) gets pinged at ruck time. Grayson slots it. 13-6 Eng
Jackson's kickoff goes out on the full. idiot... Eng spin back on attack, kick for territory and then win the resulting Maori lineout.
Grayson takes a drop kick but misses. Bolshaw takes a dropkick and misses. What a couple of dropkicks.... :)
Grayson kicks well for the corner, forcing a Maori throw on their own 5m. Tito claims it (for a change) but the Maori can't free it from the maul and turn it over. After the whistle the Eng hooker comes up from bottom of the pile of bodies with his mits on the ball and a big shit-eating grin on his ugly mug. Bastard...
Eng scrum but the Eng halfback can't pick up and Gibson scampers off with it down the touchline, and offloads to Flavell who is taken in to touch near halfway, nice breakout, Gibson certainly has some gas. Little bastard... :)
Finally play opens up a bit, as both sides find some space. Eng look good on attack but the Maori backs make some great tackles on the Eng forwards with Gear dropping Phil "the tank" Vickery and then little Glen Jackson pulling a great judo throw on the Eng No 6.
From the resulting Eng lineout Grayson fumbles and Nicholas toes it through then Rico Gear has a great footrace with an English player which he wins up until the point that he has to slow his stride to toe it forward again which gives the Eng player the chance to dive on it first over the line. Given the slippery conditions Gear probably should have dived on the ball and slide over, but he did well in any case.
Maoris back on attack from the drop out and Jackson gets a shot at goal and hits it. 13-9 Eng (54min gone)
Ian Smith reckons the Eng players are getting tired, could be right but sounds like commentators curse to me... I hope not.
Gear looks good when given some more space and nearly sneaks through out wide.
The replacement half-back that Eng have bought (Gomersall) on is certainly a yapper, as his team mates rumble it up he sounds like a sargent major barking orders. Bloody annoying but probably actually a pretty good feature of his play really.
Fleming and Cullen look dangerous on two seperate attacking runs but neither can find support or control the ball.
Maoris seem to be getting some more possession at this stage, Flavell makes a good lineout take and the Maoris rumble it up about 20m, looking every bit as good as some of the English rolling mauls. Damn good to see because I really felt that the Eng pack were on top of their Maori opposites up to this point.
A few more subs on both sides, simply tactical on the Maori side but some of the wimpy Poms go off due to injury.
Finally it happens, Flavell gets pinged for a late shoulder charge on Grayson. What a dork...
Willy Walker on, Glen Jackson off. (62 min gone)
England hammer the Maori line again but a big tackle from Fleming and Flavell forces the turnover and a defensive scrum.
The rain is steady now, after being off and on up to this point.
England have a good attacking scrum and make a couple of good cracks at the line before Grayson loses the plot and firesa wide pass directly into touch. Not that it matters as the Maori can't win their own lineout. Luckily the Eng knock on and give the Maori a defensive scrum and then infringe before the ball goes in allowing a clearing kick.
Of course that results in another lineout... gulp
This time the English don't contest though and Flavell secures it well. Maori spin it wide and attack down the left with a good kick, Eng kick it back though and Maddock tries to run it back and gets isolated in the tackle and plays the ball on the ground. Grayson gets another shot at goal but doesn't quite have the distance. Flavell takes the ball on the full and makes a good left footed clearing kick.
Maoris get penalised for playing the man in the air (Flavell is to blame it would appear) as the English jumper lands heavily. The replay shows that while Flavell did touch the guy it was really a case of his lifters not supporting the guy that allowed him to fall awkwardly, not (surprisingly) the contact from Mr Flavell.
Of course Paddy doesn't care about the replay, and Grayson gets another shot at goal. This time he nails it. 16-9 Eng, (70min gone)
Maoris knock on when contesting the kickoff.
A few more kicks from both sides keeps play around the half-way line. The Maoris finally manage to string together a few phases (5 according to Mexted) but it breaks down in the end.
From the resulting scrum the English backs put together their best attacking run of the match, with half-back Gomersall breaking down the touch line and feeding it back inside, the attack ends with winger Dan Luger just getting held-up over the line after Cully makes a desperation tackle.
The defense doesn't hold from the resulting scrum though as half-back Gommersal sneaks over for a try. Converted by Grayson. 23-9 ENG (3min to go)
The Maoris get fired up in the last few minutes but the English defense holds strong and they turn the ball over and clear well. English coach Clive Woodward is on the sideline and, quite rightly, looks very smug and is obviously trying to fight off a grin, and failing. Bastard...
The Maoris are now really taking risks and almost give away another try due to crazy passing in their own 22, but fortunately manage to recover the ball and ground it in goal. Paddy says that's enough and that's the ball game.
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A pretty dull, but ultimately very impressive performance from the English team. They played to the conditions very well, playing for territory and controlling the set pieces. No doubt the test side on Sat will play in a similar fashion, hopefully the All Blacks can compete better at set piece time.
Standout players on the day were the English No 8 and 6 in the loose (sorry can't remember names) and Grayson and the replacement halfback Gomersall in the backs. For the Maoris Flavell had a busy game, and Gear and Nicholas again looked good together in the midfield.
My gut feeling is that if the All Blacks can keep 50% of the possession then they will put it to better use but if it's much less than that, and we are forced to give away penalties in our half then little Jonny and his pasty mates could be pretty damn tough to beat.
In any case it won't be festival rugby and I don't expect that the ABs will be dorking this impressive English side.