Tour of New Zealand: England race in six tries in 38-7 victory over Crusaders
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 17/06/14 12:59pm
England scored six times as a number of players laid impressive markers in a 38-7 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Tuesday.
Joe Gray, Ben Foden, Brad Barritt, Alex Goode, Anthony Watson and Chris Pennell all raced home, while the efforts of Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Matt Kvesic and captain Ed Slater will not have gone unnoticed as England claimed their first victory in the penultimate game of their four-match tour.
Crusaders captain Matt Todd hit back with the hosts' only score of the match as Stuart Lancaster, the England head coach, offered a series of players the opportunity to stake a claim ahead of their final Test match against New Zealand.
There was air of poignancy for the partisan home support as England, sporting commemorative jerseys, returned to Christchurch for the first time since the fatal Canterbury earthquake forced their 2011 Rugby World Cup base to be relocated.
With England winless after successive defeats to the All Blacks, Lancaster reiterated their desire to treat the Crusaders clash as a fourth Test match, with four uncapped players making senior debuts.
It was billed as an opening for those on the fringes of Lancaster's plans to force their way in and news that fly-half Owen Farrell will miss Saturday’s final Test against the All Blacks offered further inspiration for Sale stand-off Danny Cipriani.
The 26-year-old made a sensational return to the international stage after a six-year exile as a second-half replacement in the series opener and given his opportunity as the starting No 10 at the AMI Stadium, Cipriani seized centre stage.
A driving maul in the opening minute gained easy territory for the tourists and Cipriani orchestrated England’s first try as he glided through a gaping hole in the Crusaders defence before offering a neat offload to Harlequins hooker Gray, who side-stepped his way over the whitewash.
Cipriani completed his idyllic start by slotting the conversion and England’s second try quickly followed with another fine display of kicking prowess, this time from full-back Goode.
The Saracens flyer stabbed a well-weighted grubber through the Crusaders line and a bemused Johnny McNicholl was a mere bystander - expecting the ball to bounce out - as Foden nipped in to flick the ball around the floundering winger and dot down to give England a 12-0 lead inside six minutes.
The lone blemish on England’s card came midway through the opening period as Matt Todd, released from the All Blacks camp to feature, forced his way over the line after the Crusaders snatched a line-out and the toursits’ frustrations were evident in the brief melee which ensued.
It was a short-lived revival as England restored their 12-point lead with Barritt, whose solitary try for the Red Rose came in the 2012 Twickenham triumph over the All Blacks, displaying strength and power as he shrugged off one defender and carried two over the line with him for a third try, which Cipriani converted.
Lancaster’s experimental side added a fourth before the break as Goode offered up a serving of nimble footwork to evade the Crusaders defence and Cipriani’s third conversion sent England back to the dressing room with a 19-point advantage.
England’s return for the second period was less emphatic as their defensive ranks were tested and Haskell and Kvesic stood up with distinction as they repelled a spirited Crusaders onslaught before Lancaster began ringing the changes.
Cipriani departed having done his chances of featuring in Wellington no harm and was replaced by Northampton’s Stephen Myler, who formed a new half-back pair with Richard Wigglesworth.
After a shaky period, interjected with numerous changes, England regrouped and eventually found their fifth try as replacement Chris Pennell released Watson, whose electrifying pace left the Crusaders defence in his wake as he raced under the posts and Myler slotted the extras with ease.
Todd Blackadder’s Crusaders refused to relent, though, as Baby Blacks graduate Jordan Taufua, who had earlier pinned Haskell with a brutal driving tackle, darted for the left corner only to be denied by a try-saving combination tackle from Pennell and Foden.
England bowed out as they began with one final foray in Crusaders territory leading to a first try for Worcester full-back Pennell after a fantastic free-flowing move.
It looked destined to be a fruitless move after a loose pass led to a scrum for the Crusaders, but England forced the turnover before a fine grubber from Barritt was met by the onrushing Pennell as the tourists finished with a flourish.
With the Rugby World Cup arriving on British shores next year, Lancaster will be encouraged by the depth of his squad as all attention turns to the third and final Test against the All Blacks.
Watch the final Test between the All Blacks and England live on Sky Sports 1HD from 8am on Saturday