Saturday 25 November 2017

Maori pain for Johnson

Grumpy England manager Martin Johnson admitted his young side were taught some brutal lessons by the New Zealand Maori in Napier yesterday.

The tourists had raced into a 13-0 lead with an early try from Steffon Armitage and then recovered from two blistering Maori scores to lead 28-17 at the interval.

Danny Care and Chris Ashton scored right at the end of the first half, but England then failed to register another point as the Maori took control.

Hosea Gear, somehow rated as only the fifth-best wing in New Zealand, completed a ruthless hat-trick to go with a try from captain Liam Messam.

What concerned Johnson most was how England crumbled under the pressure, conceding two soft tries to Gear before wasting promising chances to snatch a draw late in the game.

"It rankles losing that game because there was a definite chance to win it," said Johnson.

"I am a bit grumpy. We said international rugby is brutal and at times people didn't do their jobs well enough.

"We lost our composure slightly, forced a few things and defensively we were poor at the start of the second half.

"I should be more upbeat about the whole tour, but it annoys me to chuck away the game."

Johnson must now begin the process of whittling down the 46 players used on tour into the senior elite squad of 32 he must name in July.

The likes of prop Dan Cole, lock Courtney Lawes, wing Ashton and scrum-half Ben Youngs are guaranteed to be included, having made such an impressive mark.

Ben Foden, Tom Croft and Shontayne Hape gave cause for optimism and only injuries held back Wasps centre Dominic Waldouck and Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie.

However, there were those who have gone backwards.

Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley look like yesterday's men, Mathew Tait was the only player dropped from the Test 22 during the tour and Shane Geraghty did not get a single start.

Irish Independent

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