Field conditions like the PGA. Warm and still. Wet. Same two teams as the year before in similar conditions – though much warmer, no doubt. The Tokyo Gaijin had a full panel at the game and all those one-eyes from both the British and New Zealand Isles added up to a lot of shaky input.
The English Gym Bunnies were out to make up for pumping they received in the 2008 finals and they looked like they had been taking their proteins in preparation to face the Mullet Men from Down Under and early on it was anyone’s guess as to how the Kiwi boys would fare with such a well drilled and professional English unit. Yes, these Englishmen were big. They were strong. They were way better looking than the skanky looking Kiwi’s, but it was after all the huffing and puffing the Mongrel from the boys Down Under that won the day.
England started out with the expected dominance up front and they had the Kiwi’s scrambling at scrum time and in the rucks. Huge pressure by the English forwards saw the Kiwi’s infringing in defense and offering the Ginga formerly known as Stupid Hair Man, Thomas Homer the chance to take his lads up by 6 points to nil. The English it was fair to say looked very slick at this point in the match.
Possession was largely owned by the big English pack but it was the Kiwi’s who did surprising things with the ball when they had it in hand. Though they kicked often enough (and very effectively), they were simply trying more creative things and it paid off as the line breaks came and they rampaged up field popping passes to support runners all around. The first time around it was centers Shaun Treeby (Wellington) and Winston Stanley (Blues), scrawny little openside Bernie Hall (Canty) and Southlander Robbie Robinson who all linked up perfectly for Robinson to go over down the left side.
Two minutes later gangly English forward James Gaskell drove forward on the right flank and despite the protest of the Kiwi panel – as the big screen replay clearly showed that Gaskell had spilled the ball – the try counted and England extended their lead to 11-5.
In true fashion the Kiwi contingent moaned for a bit but were soon consoled when a perfectly weighted chip over the top by center Winston Stanley was re-gathered and off-loaded to Zac Guildford for another try down in the left hand corner. Only 20 minutes in and the tries were coming thick and fast!
Fly-half Aaron Cruden was having a stormer and the only blemish on his game was the fairly average penalty and goal kicking from wide out. As it was though his running game was sublime and he started carving up the big Englishmen to spark the opportunities.
Cruden was the man who picked up the next try in the 27th minute after another sizzling raid by the boys in black, quick passing, quick recycling and they crashed it up toward the try line only to be held out by some staunch English defense. Eventually though the ball was sent blind and the little Kiwi dived over to extend the Kiwi lead to 7.
Cruden then scored again through some more slick interplay between backs and forwards to have the Poms at sixes and sevens. Things were going very well for the Mulleted Ones at this stage of the game.
Half Time: MM 25-14 GB’s
While Thomas Homer kicked a penalty to reduce the margin, New Zealand went into the half up 25-14 and feeling confident. England had been awesome in the set pieces, smashing the Kiwi front row to the extent that they were collapsing and standing up to break the strain but they lacked the creativity of the Kiwi’s with ball in hand. In fact they lacked the skill of the Kiwi’s with ball in hand. It was clear that if the Bogans could keep up their solid tackling, we thought they should hold on as their counter attack was something the Gym Bunnies could not cope with.
And so into the second half they went and it was a good start for the Mullet Men with inside center Shaun Treeby going through hardly touched under the posts in the 43rd minute. 31-14 and the Gym Bunny supporters went quiet.
Again the Poms smashed their way back up field and hammered at the Kiwi line for what seemed an eternity. Penalty after penalty came as the Kiwi’s did all they could to hold the Gym Bunnies at bay. Monsters these Englishmen were and they eventually smashed their way over for a try to Number 8 and Kiwi Wannabe, Carl Fearns. We must remind readers that this try scoring beast looks closer to 39 than 19 but is a player to look out for. In fact if he did not score the try, it was clear to even to us biased Kiwi’s that the ref was sure to award a penalty try if the infringements kept up.
At this stage, the English left wing Charles Sharples was having a good night and was unlucky not to dot down but for some desperate cover defense of the surprisingly mullet-less Southlander, Robbie Robinson. With no “‘fro” the poor guy must get teased down in Invercargill but this kid single-handedly defensively shattered English dreams on a number of occasions. Thomas Homer the English full-back looks solid in a Josh Lewsie-esque way and could well be one to watch, while their forward pack is chocked full of guys who will go on to be club stars in the mud bogs of English rugby.
It should be noted also that Sharples was a far cry better than his right winger who looked average at best, as did the English inside center who spilled the ball on a few incredibly unnecessary occasions. The panel thought it must be a cruel joke to them that such skinny little buggers like these Kiwi’s (or little Welsh Williams’ in the big leagues) were running rings around them.
Unfair maybe, but the Gym Bunnies were trying too hard to match the Kiwi’s running flair and just made a hash of it by dropping the ball or making poor passes – again, “too much weights, not enough speed work”, which may suit the muddy English game but on a clean track seems a waste. The times the Poms got back into their traditional game of trucking it up, they made more decent yards and created the chances for wider moves but they were too far behind to muck around, they needed to ship the ball and score some tries.
For the Kiwi’s open side flanker Bernie Hall was everywhere. For a midget he sure gets around and plays a great linking game, so we hope he can get taller and heavier and make a go of it at a higher level. Zac Guildford is a class act and Robbie Robinson at fullback is almost surely one to press for higher honours in future. Aaron Cruden was looking classy and half-back Frae Wilson was putting the Poms under all sorts of pressure on attack and defense. Winston Stanley looks the goods and will mature into a very handy center with more time at the Blues, while mulleted Hooker Braydon Mitchell also had a strong all round game to round out some great Southland participation: three Southlanders, two disgraceful mullets but three extremely effective players.
The Kiwi’s ran in two more tries through speedster Zac Guildford on the right wing and another Southland combo act between Alex Ryan (proud owner of the skankiest of all the bad hair on display – a dred-slash-mullet effort you’d rarely see north of Gore) and Braydon Mitchell. Ryan knew exactly what to do and was the key man in squaring up and delivering Mitchell’s try in the corner. All done with a front rower in the bin as, yes, that card had finally come.
England came back with a last minute pride booster but it was all too late for them. The Kiwi’s had shown them how the game should be played: on the field and not in the gym. Superior handling was the key. It was exciting stuff and with the scores being relatively tight for much of the match it was a great finale to a very good tournament.
The Kiwi’s were crowned Champions with the final score being 44-28.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden was deservedly selected as the Junior World Championship Player of the Year. He is a class act and when he sorts out his place kicking game (or gets someone else to do it), he will be a star that will be fun watching. Cruden scored two tries and was a key catalyst in three others in the Final and was the key playmaker who sparked the Kiwi’s when it counted over the Aussies in the Semi. According to the official tournament guide, this lad from Manuwatu missed out on last year’s tournament as he was “battling cancer”. Hard core.
In other news…
Scotland beat Tonga, Italy beat Canada, Samoa beat Ireland, Argentina beat Fiji and France tore Wales and new rear end, as did Japan Uraguay to see who got the wooden spoon. In the 3rd/4th Play-Off, Australia got flogged by the Baby Boks 32-5 in what was a good lead in to the main event.