England’s tour ended with a 35-28 defeat to New Zealand Maori in what was a great game to watch.
England stormed to a 13-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes, with two penalties from Charlie Hodgson and a try from Steffon Armitage. The ambition they showed in keeping the ball alive was admirable, and it looked as though it could have been another impressive victory.
But the response by the Maori was mightily impressive. Hodgson had another penalty attempt which rebounded off the upright, and the home side ran it back through several phases and completed one of the tries of the season when Hosea Gear went over in the corner.
Liam Messam scored their second try shortly afterwards when Phil Dowson made a mistake at number 8, but England regained the lead through tries from Danny Care and Chris Ashton, the latter after an interception from Charlie Hodgson.
The Maori then scored two tries of their own in the second half, and Luke McAlister closed the game out with two penalties at the end.
There were several mistakes and missed tackles from both sides, but the way England looked to play with width early on was encouraging and proved that a strong performance in defeat can be a good thing! They needed a Jonny Wilkinson to close the game out at the end, but the experience will surely have done some good for players like Dowson and Chris Robshaw.
Some may even have done enough to earn a place in England’s Elite Player Squad due to be named next month, but we won’t get started on the pointlessness of that announcement!