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England breeze past Crusaders

17th June 2014 08:50

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England caught the eye in Christchurch's AMI Stadium with a thumping 38-7 victory over the error-strewn Crusaders on Tuesday.

The visitors made a flying start, scoring an early brace through Joe Gray and Ben Foden, before Brad Barritt and Alex Goode cancelled out Matt Todd's five-pointer for the hosts with tries of their own.

And further touchdowns from Anthony Watson and Chris Pennell settled the issue in the second half with the depleted Crusaders struggling to convert their field position into points.

Blindsides Jordan Taufua and James Haskell embodied the tussle up front with a bruising ding-dong battle that saw each take it in turn to put the other flat on his back.

And it was typically strong carries from Watson and Matt Kvesic that laid the platform for England to break the deadlock, as Danny Cipriani ghosted through a gap in the home 22, and fired the ball back inside for his hooker Gray to splash over.

The pivot converted, and England immediately cranked up the pressure. There were shades of Rob Howley and Clement Poitrenaud by the corner flag as Johnny McNicholl dallied over a bouncing ball that stubbornly refused to graze the touchline; Foden - playing on the wing - snuck in and picked his pocket.

Cipriani failed to master the swirling breeze from the touchline, but England were playing with a spring in their step, and averaging more than a point a minute at 0-12 with eight on the clock.

The Crusaders, in front of a capacity home crowd, responded with purpose, but errors and imprecision meant their pressure failed to yield points until the 23rd minute, when Todd - an early replacement for George Whitelock, who picked up a head knock - burrowed his way over in the shadow of the uprights, Tom Taylor converting.

If the AMI Stadium faithful expected a backlash, they were left sorely disappointed minutes later when Barritt stepped past Tyler Bleyendaal and powered his way over the line for England's third. Cipriani's conversion took the scoreline to 7-19.

England were making a habit of pinching seemingly secure Crusaders possession from the murky depths of rolling mauls, and it was from such a steal by captain Ed Slater that the hosts were caught cold in their own 22.

The ball was moved swiftly through the hands, allowing Goode to dummy and slalom his way over untroubled. Cipriani too had no problems off the tee, and banged over his third conversion of the night to hand England a deserved 7-26 half-time lead.

The fly-half was replaced by Stephen Myler seven minutes into the second forty, adding further to speculation that he may be Stuart Lancaster's pick for the final Test with Owen Farrell ruled out.

His absence did nothing to harm England's performance. The hosts battered and bludgeoned Lancaster's defence after the break, but failed to break down the visitors' rear-guard.

By contrast, England were clinical, the Crusaders clinging on by virtue of two brilliant turnovers on their own try-line. Their resistance was broken and the game put to bed in some considerable style on 58 minutes.

A fantastic delayed run off Pennell, timed to perfection by Watson, saw the wing slice through the hosts' midfield and round Taylor to score under the posts.

The try of the day was converted by Myler, and proved to be the only points of a second half that brimmed with blood and guts, but failed to produce much in the way of attacking inspiration until Pennell gathered Barritt's kick with the clock red for a sixth try in the corner.

Myler couldn't quite add the extras from the touchline, but further evidence of England's growing squad depth came to the fore anew in the Garden City.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Try: Todd
Con: Taylor

For England:
Tries: Gray, Foden, Barritt, Goode, Watson, Pennell
Cons: Cipriani 3, Myler 2

The teams:

Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Jimmy McNicholl, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Nafi Tuitavake, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 George Whitelock (c), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Joel Everson, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Tim Perry
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19

Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Adam Whitelock, 23 Rob Thompson.

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Tom Johnson, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 James Haskell, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 David Ward, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Stephen Myler, 22 Jonny May, 23 Chris Pennell.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)

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