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Kangaroos and Kiwis show England the way

Paul Fletcher | 12:47 UK time, Sunday, 25 October 2009

At The Stoop.

I wonder how England coach Tony Smith slept on Saturday night?

The naturalised Pom was at The Stoop to watch Australia and New Zealand smash out a 20-all draw of such ferocious intensity and crunching defence that he could be forgiven for breaking out in the occasional cold sweat.

The previous evening he had watched his England team labour to victory over France in Doncaster after trailing 12-4 at the break.

If England's Four Nations opener had been a lullaby then Saturday's match was heavy metal.

England were simply awful in the first half of their match but, credit to them, improved considerably after the break.

There were plus points for Smith to take from his team's game - the impact and invention of Kyle Eastmond after his introduction, the expected thrust and go-forward of his pack, the way some of the combinations started to gel as the contest wore on.

But as I said the other day this is an England side with an extremely young and inexperienced backline.

Australia and New Zealand players tangle at The Stoop Emotions boiled over during Saturday's thrilling game

Smith's team is on a learning curve and if he didn't realise it before, he must now be all too aware of the gargantuan test his outfit face against Australia at Wigan next Saturday.

The Kangaroos were far from their best on Saturday evening - skipper Darren Lockyer talked about the timing in the team being slightly off after several weeks without a game. The amount of dropped ball almost hinted at slight rustiness.

There was also precious little for Jarryd Hayne to take out of the game. When I spoke to England and Wests Tigers second rower Gareth Ellis recently he referred several times to the devastating form shown by the Parramatta Eels full-back last season. Hayne, however, played on the wing against the Kiwis and was a largely peripheral figure. Whether he will be so anonymous against England remains to be seen.

Australia played with the customary patience seen so often in club games in the NRL, dominating large periods of possession and threatening the Kiwi line. They were thwarted time and again by brilliant defending but when the combinations in their much heralded back division start to fire, somebody is in for a very tough time.

Centre Greg Inglis and hooker Cameron Smith, team-mates at Melbourne Storm, were outstanding and combined for the Kangaroos' last-gasp try that allowed them to snatch a point.

The Kiwis showed the virtue of a physical approach against Tim Sheens' team and England's forwards must show great enthusiasm at Wigan. In Jamie Peacock, Adrian Morley, Sam Burgess and Ellis they certainly are not short of physicality, though the defensive strength of the backs is not comparable with the Kiwis.

Some Australians I know are less than thrilled with their team's forwards. The old warhorse Petero Civoniceva was superb on Saturday but the Kanagroos pack lacks a talismanic figure like Gorden Tallis or Shane Webke, while props Ben Hannant and Brett White made their debuts against the Kiwis. England can win the forward battle next weekend. They will have to.

Once England have played the Kangaroos they take on world champions New Zealand in Huddersfield. Realistically they will have to beat one of them to reach the final in Leeds on 14 November.

The Kiwis had been written off by some before the tournament. That did not look like clever thinking on Saturday.

Some of the hits delivered by Kiwi loose forward Adam Blair were truly X-rated, they made you wince as you looked at them, while the sensationally named Fuifui Moimoi's propensity to literally run over the opposition was on full display.

The sheer physicality of Stephen Kearney's team was thrilling to witness but they are also well drilled defensively.

What's more, captain Benji Marshall and Nathan Fien were effective in the halves and Lance Hohaia showed the devastation the modern-day full-back can inflict when he joins the attacking line.

England really should look on the coming weeks as an opportunity. Players like Eastmond, Richie Myler and Sam Tomkins could have the chance to add to their burgeoning reputations. Australians might not have that much respect for Super League but they will appreciate it if England's young stars stand out against the fabled green and gold.

But before we start getting ahead of ourselves, Smith's team has an awful lot of work to do before next Saturday's encounter.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    A complete hammering will be an achievement IMO. Love to be proved wrong about it, but I just can't see England winning this one.

    BUT if the new lads learn from it, this will be something. (straw duly clutched at!)

  • Comment number 2.

    By that of course I mean NOT a complete hammering!!

  • Comment number 3.

    See my first post please.

  • Comment number 4.


    Mean or average?

  • Comment number 5.

    Been looking- interesting-your use of scare quotes.

  • Comment number 6.


    The Kiwis and the Kangaroos showed us a wonderful game of football.
    Margaret Thatcher was right- get rid of The Unions - and see what happens!

  • Comment number 7.


    You look a little too young to be the Paul Fletcher who played for Leeds.
    Also a little too hirsute -except in the presence of Desperate Dan- to have appeared in Scottish comics. Ah! perhaps you have been sussed!.
    What did your mum put in those cow pies?

  • Comment number 8.


    Paul, ours is the only real football league.[ Non caps for soccer football] ergo non caps for rugby football.
    Please remember members of your profession usually refer to soccer as an industry. We believe that rugby is still a sport.
    Out of the mouths of Babes & fools!

  • Comment number 9.


    "Kanagroos" Wonderful! why such irony has not appeared before I don't know!
    Long may your Bushisms remain!

  • Comment number 10.

    If the Kanagroos tour this time please ensure that the touring rugby union side are clearly called the 'Jellabies'!

    I love Indian desserts!

  • Comment number 11.


    Following your tweets now- you, you, jack of all alas master of how many?

  • Comment number 12.

    Great game. Why no criticisim of Ganson? He turned what could have been a classic into a great game. So petty, In the NRL, the game flows much better because people expect physicality combined with skill. It's not touch footie, that's why Super League is so brittle.

    Ganson is a disgrace & would not be allowed to ref in that style in the NRL.

    Imagine if he had a twin? With 2 refs doing every game in the NRL...

  • Comment number 13.

    What has Firstloiner been drinking? None of that made any sense to me. The game was fantastic by the way, a pity that NZ couldn't have hung on for the win but a draw was a fair result really and leaves England top of the group. Can't see England beating either team based on the evidence of the two matches though

  • Comment number 14.

    'The Kiwis and the Kangaroos showed us a wonderful game of football.
    Margaret Thatcher was right- get rid of The Unions - and see what happens!'

    I prefer it when the All Blacks and the Wallabies show us what the best code is.

  • Comment number 15.

    I prefer it when the All Blacks and the Wallabies show us what the best code is.
    =============================
    Neither even made it to the RU WC semifinals!

    As someone said to me at the game last night, this was a game between the 2 best rugby sides in the world. A complete priviledge to witness, now England to step up to the plate.

  • Comment number 16.

    If the big men like Peacock, morley, burgess, ellis, and graham can make metres and get some offloads going, I think we can dominate the aussies in the middle. Carvell needs to be on the bench tho, against the aussies we need more big men in the 17. Roby and Moore will have to step up and control the ruck more. Yesterdays game gives a slight bit of hope, as long as the aussies continue to be a little off key. I think we'll be miles better for playing a stronger side in the aussies next week, pressures of, we don't need to win, so i think they'll get stuck in. If the aussies get a bit ball out wide tho, we lack strength and weight in the three quarters, so conceding is envitable. So when we get down there end we'll have to take our opportunities!

  • Comment number 17.

    Fine blog Paul, but......

    I know that RL fans are born with the proverbial chip on the shoulder - but the BBC's treatment of the game only exacerbates this perception.

    Where were the pics and the headlines on the web site? No, instead of covering a game between the two best sides in their code in the world, all the glitz and glamour goes to the rumble between two mid-rating NFL teams.

    Where were the reports on the hourly bulletins? I don't have 5live extra, so I was following it by score updates or R5 bulletins - but come 10 pm on Sunday, waiting for the final score and report - no reference! Sure the RU results from hours back were there, as was the 6-hour old big race ressult - but nowt from the Auz-NZ game.

    Where was the TV coverage? Couldn't the Beeb even manage highlights somewhere? If they did, I didn't see it advertised anywhere.

    In terms of how can England tackle either of these teams, I can only echo Paul4fc's comments. We'll have to play at the top of our game - they'll have to have an off day, and then we might squeak it!

  • Comment number 18.


    I've got my tickets for England v Australia at Wigan on Saturday, but I definitely go in hope rather than expectation.
    Regarding Eastmond, Richie Myler & Sam Tomkins, they may show what they are made of, but I doubt it - the game will be played predominantly near the England line, I can see the Roo's making too much easy yards.

  • Comment number 19.

    Saturday's game was played at a great pace and was very physical; Hargreaves (17) and Blair (13) epitomised that with some ferocious shots but it was also littered with penalties - Australia, especially in the first 10 minutes and New Zealand, midway through the first half. I put that down to the fact that more than half of the players have hardly played over the last 6 weeks.

    England's backline is a 'work in progress' and they have a mammoth task ahead of them on Saturday. Our pack is better then Australia's in my opinion and if we can get their forwards on their backs and win the ruck, slow the play the ball down and shut out their go-forward we may have a chance.

  • Comment number 20.

    'Neither even made it to the RU WC semifinals!

    'As someone said to me at the game last night, this was a game between the 2 best rugby sides in the world. A complete priviledge to witness, now England to step up to the plate.'

    Just shows that there is a much greater strength in depth in union. You could not even have a world cup semi-final stage in leaugue without NZ, Aus or England being there as there is no one else good enough to stop them.

  • Comment number 21.

    One of the most remarkable passages of play on Saturday night came in the middle of the first half, when the Kiwis kept their line safe against a row of perhaps 5 incomplete sets by the Aussies camped less than 20m out (a period when many of the penalties were conceded by NZ). The Kiwi defence was outstanding, pressuring the Aussies into mistakes, but they were helped by some confusion and misunderstandings which left Inglis signalling his frustration back towards the halves and loose forwards. This will be sorted by next Saturday, so England will have to defend out wide - which they don't look strong enough or experienced enough to do. The Aussie forwards (Cameron Smith aside) were a beaten packat the Stoop - but England has no equivalent to Moimoi or Blair (both of whom were outstanding) to batter the Aussies in attack and defence. Australia to win by 40pts. (and then we play NZ!)

  • Comment number 22.

    Having been there on Saturday night a couple of points

    1. All Blacks v Wallabies at the moment is no contest to Kiwis v Kangaroos. The passion from the Kiwis was outstanding. Having been brought up in Onion heartland (come on it's a perfect game for the middle classes similar to cricket, 30 seconds of actions, 30 seconds of drinking) it is no contest. League has passion and heart rather that church singing. Even Super 10/12/14/15 is going downhill

    2. The BBC have done well to improve their coverage and should be applauded for making the crumbs they get into cakes

  • Comment number 23.

    By the way Ganson is getting more embarrassing by the game. There is a need to go to two officials like the NRL with Ganson not part of it

  • Comment number 24.

    Not convinced of all the attacks on Ganson. I thought he did as good a job as could be expected, the large number of fouls blown was not down to him, but the indiscipline & passion of the two teams - I thought he let it flow as best he could. But as with the SL lads getting a wake up call, it can be no different for the refs.

  • Comment number 25.

    Always seems to me, England always struggle mentally when playing australia. Seems in recent tri-nations series' we've only really beaten them when the pressure is off

    It maybe needs a fearless younger generation of players to step up, those who dont have previous mental scars of defeats against the aussies

  • Comment number 26.

    First up - I'll be at Wigan on Saturday and writing about it afterwards so please do have a look and let me know what you made of the match.

    Secondly - lots of Ganson chat. Grabs the headlines that fella. I remember the stink a few weeks ago when the St Helens-based official took charge of the Saints-Leeds Grand Final. Some fans weren't happy but it was Saints who ended less than pleased.

    I was in the tunnel area afterwards when Ganson walked through. "Been for a drug's test?" someone asked him given he was still in his reffing gear so far after the final whistle.

    "Bloody needs one," quipped a member of the Saints' backroom staff, loudly.

    I kind of wish we had the two ref system in the Four Nations - I'd like to see it in action. I wonder whether without it we will see the Aussies and Kiwis messing around at the ruck/trying to creep inside 10 yards at the play-the-ball. Wouldn't blame them for trying.

    swaqik - there were highlights on BBC2 on Sunday, cannot comment I am afraid about 5 Live as I wasn't listening but, as you say, they had commentary on sports extra. Next Saturday's game is live on the BBC1.

  • Comment number 27.

    Cheers swaquik. As for unounos, i can't disagree that there is strenght in depth in rugby union, as for rugby league there is a lot more than you think. I only have to go watch local Hull amateur games and see the quality on show there. And it is league not union that have there equivalent division one games televised by sky every week. The problem is in league we have a huge gap between the top quality of players and teams to the average players and teams, in all fasists, be it club or internationally. For me the top 8 international rugby union teams are average teams, whereas the top three international teams in league are top quality, aussies a little more so, and the rest of the 8 are average international rugby league teams. With more tests in rugby union they get to fan out the rubbish for the world cups(which are still rubbish), whereas league its win or bust, put on a show or bust. Eng union losing 42-6 last year at home in repeat of your world cup final, doesn't cover glory in union internationally.

  • Comment number 28.


    On Steve Ganson - the Kiwis (fans and players) didn't like a lot of his decisions, but neither did the Aussie fans. To be fair, the game was going at a blistering pace and the collisions were a lot bigger than he normally referees (and a lot of the sightlines at the Stoop are poor). I've always thought him random, but again from the video screen he got most of it right (and how he loves the video screen). There is a theory that imperfect refereeing can add to the excitement, but wholly agree that we should have gone with two refs, the NRL way; another successful innovation.

  • Comment number 29.

    If I were Tony Smith I'd run with Roby at hooker for the full 80 and have an extra Big Lad on the bench - probably Crabtree. I might also run with Eastmond in the centres instead of Shenton and Tomkins on the bench. We need to bring all the best talent we have to bear.

  • Comment number 30.

    'The passion from the Kiwis was outstanding. Having been brought up in Onion heartland (come on it's a perfect game for the middle classes similar to cricket, 30 seconds of actions, 30 seconds of drinking) it is no contest.'

    Yeah the problem with that comment is that the passion shown from the kiwis would be much greater had the All Blacks been playing. I mean it was nice for New Zealand to win the league world cup but if they won the union world cup them would go mental, the nation went into national mourning after going out in the last world cup. I would think league was more suited for drinking, the chances of a turnover are slim so you usually have to wait for 6 tackles and then a kick before the other team gets the ball.

    'For me the top 8 international rugby union teams are average teams, whereas the top three international teams in league are top quality, aussies a little more so, and the rest of the 8 are average international rugby league teams.'

    Top three? England got spanked at the last world cup. So that leaves two decent sides and I would say union has five or six very good sides (the all blacks, south africa, australia, france, wales and possibly Ireland).

    'With more tests in rugby union they get to fan out the rubbish for the world cups(which are still rubbish), whereas league its win or bust, put on a show or bust. Eng union losing 42-6 last year at home in repeat of your world cup final, doesn't cover glory in union internationally.'

    Firstly the union world cup is much better and secondly England being annihilated by the Aussies and then struggling against mighty Papua New Guinea does not cover league in international glory. Having only two sides capable of winning the tournament and England occasionally having a chance is a bit rubbish.

  • Comment number 31.

    unounos wrote: "I would think league was more suited for drinking, the chances of a turnover are slim so you usually have to wait for 6 tackles and then a kick before the other team gets the ball."

    That is the difference between the two sports. Union is likely to have a lot more turnovers because the rules are different and the state of the game is nothing like it's opposite code. League on the other hand is all about building pressure on opposition line and keeping the ball.

    Can't people just agree to disagree when it comes to this arguement? A pointless arguement that serves only to get on people's nerves.

  • Comment number 32.

    The emergence of the Kiwis as a genuine force in RL is a fantastic development for the game. GB/England have been too far off the pace for too long, and with so many NZ players in the NRL I wouldn't expect their competitiveness to decrease in future either. It is a challenge for the English RL to become competitive due to, amongst other things, financial constraints. Such is the dominance of soccer, and RU in the establishment (and yes the BBC could and should do better), that many of our talented young sportsmen are drawn away from RL for greater gains elsewhere. Another factor is that RL is such a mentally and physically demanding game to play, other options are not only more lucrative but just easier on the mind and body. What you can't deny (unless you're totally blinkered) is that the game served up by the Kiwis and Kangaroos was superb by any definition.

  • Comment number 33.

    As much as I want to see England win, watching Billy Slater pin his ears back and score after running the length of pitch would be just as great.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good point rovers return, i can agree to disagree. This blog is here for rugby league debate, if you don't like the game, don't comment. The Aussies started running away with test series around 82 especially when they destroyed GB in that series. Until we get something put in place like a state of orgin equivalent, or something similar on a regular basis with the same intensity, the uk game will lag behind, and every england international will have to be playing NRL to keep up with the south hem.

  • Comment number 35.

    There are numerous blogs about Union, please stick to those, who cares how big RU is or isn't? I'd rather watch amateur RL than the RUWC anyday. Anyway, looking forward to Saturday and going to expect a thrashing but any sort of non hammering will be welcome.

    The Aussies are very beatable....just not by us!

  • Comment number 36.

    paul4fc - an equivalent to State of Origin won't make up the gap on its own, and Lancs/Yorks matches have tried and failed to live up to club games. I think Rovers Return called it right a while back, it's the fact that the Kiwis are playing in the NRL that makes the difference. Somehow, we need to get 20 Englishmen playing regularly in the NRL. However, there's either a lack of ambition in our players, or, as someone suggested elsewhere, it's too easy to earn money elsewhere than take that step up to the NRL. The test against the Aussies will demonstrate this well on Saturday - why would we select a centre who doesn't even want to play RL any more to play against Inglis? The player in question has already signalled he wants to spend his afternoons standing doing as little as possible for easy money, not defending against the likes of NRL centres and loose forwards.

  • Comment number 37.

    I think with Ellis, Burgess etc moving to Aus, this might inspire a few more to give the NRL a shot. A few years back our top players (Morley aside) wouldn't move down under. Perhaps this will lead to, if not a flood, an increase!

  • Comment number 38.

    hertsairliebird, fc fan rite, good haha. I don't mean just a lancs and yorkshire match. I mean like a whole representative set up for us, if it was marketed better than before i do think it would work. And at least two england mid season games to follow the representative games. Cut the season 5 games short (easier said than done) add 2 two teams, making the play-offs more meaningful, due to the schedule not being completely level. then have yorks/lancs, rest of uk/all golds, yorks/lancs/, rest of uk/france. then england/all golds and england/france, in four weekend spaces during the season. if we let our best 20 players all go across it would seriously undermine the super league.

  • Comment number 39.

    I just want to point out in post 29 I pretty much got Tony Smith's plan right. Anyone wants this week's lottery numbers, just ask :) One question remains - Westwood... WHY???

  • Comment number 40.

    So, Sam Tomkins gets a go, and on his home ground too.

    I'm really excited to see how he goes on this Saturday as I have been impressed with his heart, skill and temperament this season (though I have been excited before when it comes to England games and somewhat deflated afterwards).

    I'll be blogging after the game on Saturday and would love to read your thoughts on the game.


  • Comment number 41.

    I agree Paul, Sam Tomkins to start is going to be intriquing. He's got that almost right type of arrogance (with out being a so an so) to do well. Its one of the things we have lack really, and the Aussies have in abundance.

  • Comment number 42.

    Great to see England take a total hammering today.

    Felt it was a bit off, however, when the Aussies totally took their foot off the gas in the 2nd half - humiliating for their opponents.

 

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