Pack powers England to win over Maoris

New Zealand Maori 9

Tries in each half from Simon Shaw and Andy Gomarsall, backed up by 13 points from Paul Grayson, sealed an impressive 23-9 win which was founded on England’s dominance in the forwards.

The conditions may have helped nullify the Maori’s attacking flair, but England’s ascendancy in the pack forced them to fluff their lines in front of 20,000 soaked supporters.

“It was very satisfying for the first game. I thought it was a wonderful effort by the guys, especially the forward pack,” said Woodward.

“I thought (Phil) Vickery did a brilliant job and we strangled the life out of them in the end.

“Vickery said to us before we went out that it really sets the Test match up for the weekend, and there is no doubt there are 15 guys in Wellington that will take a lot out of that game.

“It was very important we won tonight, and we did.

“We have all been on tours as players and coaches, you know how important it is when your midweek or second-string team win, especially when the whole of New Zealand was expecting the Maori team to win.

“To win, and win with something to spare, is a massive boost to them and when we train tomorrow there will be a real spring in the step. It does make a big difference.

“This is the second game in a row where we silenced the crowd and there is no doubt Martin Johnson and the guys back there will take a lot out of the game.”

Maori coach Matt Te Pou described England as “ruthless” and believes they are the strongest side he has come up against in nine years as assistant coach or coach of the side, and that includes Australia, who the Maori have played in each of the last two years.

The nearest the Maori came to crossing the England line was after a Grayson fumble was hacked on by the speeding Rico Gear.

But only minutes earlier, Iain Balshaw had been subbed for Ben Johnston after suffering a dead leg and it was the fresh Saracens star who caught the man many here have tipped as an All Black World Cup centre.

Johnston touched down first and preserved England’s defensive record.

Balshaw was one of a number of players to receive knocks during the game, predictable given the feisty, physical nature of Maori rugby.

Kyran Bracken and hooker Dorian West were among the others to depart but Woodward is confident all would be fit in time for the Test on Saturday, if they have done enough to force their way into the 22.

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: Pens: G Jackson 3. New Zealand Maori: Cullen, Maddock, Gear, Nicholas, Fleming, G. Jackson, Gibson, Feek, McFarland, Hayman, Tito, Ormsby, Flavell, Parkinson, Randell.

ENGLAND: Balshaw, Luger, Noon, Abbott, Simpson-Daniel, Grayson, Bracken, Woodman, West, Vickery, Shaw, Borthwick, Corry, Hazell, J Worsley.

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