venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
23rd October 2010
Full Match Report
England were soundly beaten 24-10 by a lively New Zealand side in Saturday's opening match of the Four Nations Series. Steve McNamara's men made an inauspicious start to their campaign on a cool evening in Wellington and trailed 18-0 before quickfire tries from James Roby and Gareth Widdop briefly gave them hope.
But New Zealand captain Benji Marshall delighted the 20,681 crowd at the Westpac Stadium with the try that finished off England, who must beat Australia in Melbourne next Sunday to keep alive their hopes of reaching the November 13 final. Third-choice captain James Graham can feel proud of his individual efforts in his first match in charge and Ben Westwood and Sam Tomkins produced encouraging displays but England misfired as a whole for long periods.
Tries from Junior Sa'u and Lance Hohaia and two goals from Marshall gave New Zealand control they never really looked like relinquishing after England produced an error-strewn first half. Looking for their first win on New Zealand soil since 1992, an England side shorn of seven first-choice players looked ponderous from the start. They might have thought their luck was in when Kiwis winger Manu Vatuvei, the scourge of England's 2008 World Cup campaign, went off after only two minutes after damaging his wrist in a crunching tackle on centre Michael Shenton.
But the Kiwis opened the scoring a minute later through Sa'u after he moved onto Vatuvei's wing and took makeshift centre Simon Mannering's pass to go around the outside of a bunched England defence. England could barely get out of their own half as they came up with error after error and not even the sterling efforts of Graham could shake them from their lethargy.
The Kiwis were far more purposeful and threatening and centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall reached the line only to be held on his back. Sa'u went over but was recalled for a forward pass. Marshall increased his side's lead to 6-0 with a penalty, to make up for a missed conversion, and he then created a second try seven minutes from the break, getting winger Jason Nightingale into space for the supporting Hohaia to go over by the posts.
Marshall's second goal made it 12-0 but England could and should have made more of their only break of the half when Kevin Brown got Sean O'Loughlin through a gap but the New Zealand defence scrambled well to keep their line intact. The busy Widdop pulled off a try-saving tackle on Sa'u just before half-time and also denied Nathan Fien after a superb break by Frank Pritchard but he gifted the Kiwis a perfect attacking position by fumbling Marshall's high kick 10 metres from his own line.
The hosts did not need a second invitation to attack England's fragile defence and Kenny-Dowall brushed off three attempted tackles to score a third try within three minutes of the re-start. Marshall's third goal made it 18-0 but England put their game together at last to give the Kiwis - and Australia - something to think about with two tries in three minutes.
Roby touched down his own grubber kick that took a fortuitous ricochet off a post before the tourists belied their earlier lack of penetration by producing the best try of the match. Shenton took second rower Joel Tomkins' neat pass inside his own half to race into space and stand-off Kevin Brown was in support to send Widdop over. Widdop added one conversion to cut the gap to eight points and England thought they had scored again when Brown followed up Sam Tomkins' kick but was ruled by video referee Bill Harrigan to have obstructed defender Greg Eastwood.
England's purple patch was snuffed out almost straight away when Marshall took a return pass from Nightingale to score his side's fourth try, which he converted from the touchline.
L Hohia J Nightingale S Kenny-Dowall J Sa’u M Vatuvei (c) B Marshall N Fien G Eastwood T Leuluai A Blair S Mannering B Harrison J Smith. sUBS: B Matulino I Luke F Pritchard F-P Nuaasalia.
G Widdop D Goulding M Shenton R Atkins T Briscoe K Brown S Tomkins J Graham (c) J Roby S Fielden G Ellis S Burgess S O’Loughlin. Subs: L Robinson D Griffin J Tomkins B Westwood