Planet Rugby

Maori edge epic against England

23rd June 2010 08:09


Dwayne Sweeney glides through England

Opening up: Dwayne Sweeney

New Zealand Maori completed a fine 35-28 victory over England at McLean Park in what was a fascinating contest that had it all on Wednesday.

Defeat is seasoned with plenty of encouragement for England though, who showed enough in attack to shed the shackles that have restrained them for so long. They were attack-minded, had ideas and importantly refused to slip back into the style of just limiting their rivals before feeding off scraps.

But that mindset could not halt the Maori in what was an awesome game at McLean Park, with Hosea Gear stealing the show with a hat-trick.

The positive result for the hosts means they have now beaten the New Zealand Barbarians, Ireland and now the English in a memorable 100th year.

England had arrived in Napier on a high after their famous 21-20 win over Australia in Sydney sealed a 1-1 Test series draw with the Wallabies.

And Team Manager Martin Johnson had branded this clash as the unofficial third Test, with England making a fast start that was led by Delon Armitage.

The tourists' early dominance was ultimately rewarded with a Hodgson penalty and then a try from Steffon Armitage as the English surged ahead.

Impressive fly-half Charlie Hodgson then stabbed a grubber kick in behind the Maori defensive line and Chris Ashton showed brilliant footballing skills to flick the ball back in play with his right foot just before it landed in touch. Armitage was already on the charge and the London Irish flanker dived on the loose ball to give England a 10-0 lead, with Hodgson landing the touchline conversion.

Hodgson slotted a second penalty as England succeeded where they had failed against the Australian Barbarians, by turning early pressure into points.

But the Maori then turned the tables spectacularly with two brilliant counter-attacking tries.

Luke McAlister got the Maori onto the scoreboard with a penalty but Hodgson wasted the chance of an immediate response by hitting the post.

Maori full-back Robbie Robinson countered from the rebound and quickly left England's defence in disarray before fly-half Stephen Brett released Gear, who swatted David Strettle and Mathew Tait aside to score.

Maori scrum-half Aaron Smith then pilfered the ball from the back of an England scrum and launched another incisive break, with Brett drawing in three defenders before releasing Messam.

Hodgson tracked back to make the tackle but the Sale fly-half could not drag Messam into touch. The try was given and McAlister's conversion edged the Maori into a 17-13 lead.

There was no let-up to the breathtaking start and it needed a vital tackle from Tait to halt centre Dwayne Sweeney before Gear knocked the ball on over the line as he chased down Brett's chip.

England were under pressure at the breakdown but returned to their point of strength in the scrum to win a kickable penalty and get back into the game.

The tourists then scored twice in the last minute before half-time to storm back into the lead.

When Referee Craig Joubert awarded England a penalty at the ruck, Care spotted the opportunity to exploit a disorganised Maori defence, took the quick tap and beat lock Jarrad Hoeata to score.

The Maori sought a response but Hodgson intercepted a pass from McAlister on halfway and sent Ashton over for the try.

England had dominated the breakdown and the tackle count in the first half but their lead was tentative - and within eight minutes of the restart it had been scrubbed out.

Tait and Barritt both fell off McAlister and when the ball was spread wide, Gear charged through a gaping hole in the England defence to score his second try.

The Maori then pounced again after another mistake at the breakdown and the ball was spread left to Gear, who capitalised on a major overlap to complete his hat-trick.

McAlister converted both tries to edge the Maori into a 29-28 lead after 48 minutes.

England's pack remained on top but Delon Armitage missed their only penalty shot of the second half with a skewed effort from long range.

The Maori closed out the game with two penalties from replacement Willie Ripia, which left England requiring a converted try to win - and they blew two golden chances.

Geraghty's attempted kick for touch went dead and when Ben Foden launched a searing break, he chose to chip ahead instead of passing to Armitage and the ball again slid over the dead ball line.

Man-of-the-match: Three bully-like tries cannot be ignored. If winger Hosea Gear does not make New Zealand's squad for the upcoming Tri-Nations then I will eat my hat. Immense.

The scorers:

For NZ Maori:
Tries: Gear 3, Messam
Con: McAlister 3
Pen: McAlister, Ripia 2

For England:
Tries: S Armitage, Care, Ashton
Con: Hodgson 2
Pen: Hodgson 3

New Zealand Maori: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Karl Lowe, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Hayden Triggs, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Clint Newland.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Colin Bourke, 20 Ruki Tipuna, 21 Willie Ripia, 22 Jackson Willison.

England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 David Strettle, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Danny Care, 8 Phil Dowson, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Chris Robshaw (c), 5 Geoff Parling, 4 David Attwood, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 George Chuter, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Dan Ward-Smith, 19 James Haskell, 20 Ben Youngs, 21 Shane Geragthy, 22 Ben Foden.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Preview
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Saturday , September 20
Scarlets vs Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Preview
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 20
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Clermont Auvergne vs LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Preview
Castres vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Montpellier vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Sunday , September 21
Otago vs WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Preview
Wellington vs TasmanWellington vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, September 24
North Harbour vs Canterbury19:35
Thursday , September 25
Bay Of Plenty vs Northland19:35
Friday , September 26
Taranaki vs Auckland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Connacht 10 - 9 LeinsterConnacht vs Leinster Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Brive 13 - 53 ToulonBrive vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 29 - 15 Pumas
More Currie Cup results
Counties Manukau 20 - 28 CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Report
Thursday , September 18
Northland 20 - 31 TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Report
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
4Leicester Tigers39