England escape teenage terror
But Attwood cited for double stamp
ENGLAND narrowly avoided being beaten by a boy in their tour opener here yesterday, but i t took a missed lastminute penalty by home fly-half Berrick Barnes to save them from yet another defeat Down Under.
Martin Johnson’s second-string side were in disarray just after half-time as teenage Wallaby full back James O’Connor scored his third try and took his personal points tally to 25, to leave the visitors trailing by 12 points. It was only when Robbie Deans began to remove the Test contenders, including O’Connor, from his Australian Barbarians team in the last half-hour that the tide turned.
After Queensland Reds prop Laurie Weeks was sin-binned, England’s pack gradually ground their opponents down and eventually capitalised, with tries by Dan Ward-Smith and Matt Banahan. They led briefly, but a Barnes penalty three minutes from time levelled the scores.
When Olly Barkley then tripped just inside his own half the hosts were awarded a kickable penalty f rom the subsequent ruck. Barnes struck the ball well, but it flew just wide. England had been spared. However, Dave Attwood (below) was cited for two counts of stamping. The Gloucester lock faced a hearing in the early hours of this morning, UK time, with the grim prospect of a ban prematurely ending his tour.
Footage of the second incident shows Attwood’s right foot clearly making downward contact with the head of Barbarians lock Mitch Chapman, who is lying under him. Home captain Stephen Hoiles can be seen appealing to the touch judge to take action against the 23 -year-old, to no avail. A bloodied Chapman was forced to leave the f i eld to have several stitches, but returned to finish the match.
Afterwards, Johnson was i n bullish mood despite witnessing yet another disjointed attacking performance. The manager said: ‘Both camps think it’s a four-round fight and it’s level after the first round. We did a lot of good things but compounded some errors which put us into a lot of strife.’
O’Connor, 19, delivered his hattrick in the space of 22 minutes either side of half-time and England simply couldn’t contain him. Strike one stemmed from a midfield burst by livewire hooker Huia Edmonds, with the full back rounding off the slick move in the corner after holding off Barkley and Ugo Monye. Strike two was more of a solo effort. Nick Cummins gathered a spilled pass and surged in-field. When the ball went wide to O’Connor, his s t op - and-go burst wrong-footed Lee Mears and he left Barkley and Delon Armitage standing to cross. The hat-trick try was a deft piece of poaching as Josh Valentine kicked past the isolated Banahan and O’Connor gathered to dive over. He weighed in with 10 kicking points to boot and his exuberance was in stark contrast to so much of what England produced. After a bright start when Barkley sent Charlie Hodgson hurtling through in midfield, they lapsed into a grim routine of driving through narrow channels and cluttering the midfield with big forwards.
England did manage to score three tries though. Mears burrowed over by the posts just before half-time, Ward-Smith struck much later after Courtney Lawes had been stopped in front of the posts, and Banahan galloped in by the corner flag shortly after.
Driving on: No 8 Dan Ward-Smith makes ground for England GETTY IMAGES