New Zealand have turned around a sloppy start to overpower England 36-24 in front of 15,000 fans at EnergyAustralia Stadium in Newcastle tonight in a preview of next weekends likely semi-final between the same two teams.
England launched out of the blocks with a blistering start, aided by some very sloppy Kiwi defence around the ruck, and had posted a 12-0 lead after only 8 minutes. Both teams then went tit-for-tat for the remainder of the half as defence was put on the back seat. The first half also featured another significant injury blow for the Kiwis with Steve Matai taken to hospital after suffering suspected nerve damage, leading to a backline shuffle that saw Simon Mannering move out to the centres.
Whatever the Kiwi coaching staff said at half time obviously had the desired effect as a completely different team emerged from the sheds. Their defence tightened up and refused to allow England another point while they dominated both territory and possession, gradually turning the screws and ramming their advantage home. The stand-out performer of the second forty was giant winger Manu Vatuvei, who finished with four tries next to his name - not since the days of Jonah Lomu has a Kiwi winger had such fun against English defences.
Both sides will have plenty to work on ahead of next weeks rematch but England could face a tougher task after clearly running out of steam as this match progressed. Gareth Ellis, Gareth Hock and Kevin Sinfield were the strongest performers, with Hock in particular punching some big holes through the Kiwi forwards throughout the match.
For the Kiwis, Jeremy Smith powered through a mountain of work up front while Issac Luke, Simon Mannering and Greg Eastwood featured heavily in the second half comeback. Maligned halfback Thomas Leuluai spent most of the match at dummy half while Nathan Fien slotted into the #7 role in a move that showed some promise for the weeks ahead.
New Zealand 36 def England 24 World Cup Week 3 - Saturday November 8th, 2008 8:00pm Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle Referee: Tony Archer Video Referee: Steve Clark Crowd: 15,145 Halftime: New Zealand 14 England 24
England 24 Tries: Rob Burrow (2), Mickey Higham, Martin Gleeson Goals: Rob Purdham (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to Newcastle for tonights Pool A clash between New Zealand and England. These two teams are very likely to meet again next week so tonights winner may well take a psychological advantage into that clash.
There have been plenty of changes to both teams from the line-ups we've seen earlier in this tournament. Here are the confirmed teams:
ENGLAND LIONS: 1. Paul Wellens 2. Mark Calderwood 3. Paul Sykes 4. Keith Senior 5. Lee Smith 6. Martin Gleeson 7. Rob Burrow 8. Adrian Morley 9. Mickey Higham 10. Jamie Peacock (c) 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan 12. Gareth Ellis 13. Rob Purdham 14. Kevin Sinfield 15. Ben Westwood 16. Gareth Hock 17. Jamie Langley Coach: Tony Smith
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS: 1. Lance Hohaia 2. Jason Nightingale 3. Steve Matai 4. Jerome Ropati 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Benji Marshall (c) 7. Thomas Leuluai 8. Adam Blair 9. Nathan Fien 10. Evarn Tuimavave 11. Simon Mannering 12. David Fa Like