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New Zealand Maori 35-28 England

NZ Maori (17) 35
Tries: Gear 3, Messam Cons: McAlister 3 Pens: McAlister, Ripia 2
England (28) 28
Tries: S Armitage, Care, Ashton Cons: Hodgson 2 Pens: Hodgson 3

Maori number eight Liam Messam is tackled by Danny Care
Danny Care attempts to stop the charge of Maori number eight Liam Messam

By Bryn Palmer

England came up narrowly short in the final match of their summer tour as they succumbed to the power of the New Zealand Maori in Napier.

Two Charlie Hodgson penalties and a Steffon Armitage try put England 13-0 up but the Maori replied through Hosea Gear and Liam Messam to lead 17-13.

England hit back with tries from Danny Care and Chris Ashton before half-time.

But they failed to score again as Gear powered over for two more tries and Willie Ripia's two penalties sealed it.

If the five-match tour ended on a losing note, there were still plenty of positive aspects to encourage the England management as they prepare to name a re-jigged elite player squad next month.

Wing Ashton was the only player in the side who also started Saturday's 21-20 victory over Australia in Sydney, but the attacking impetus from that memorable triumph was certainly evident early on as the second-stringers made a whirlwind start.

With the red rose pack generating plenty of quick ball for an eager backline to exploit, Hodgson rewarded their endeavours with a penalty after the Maori strayed offside.


Three times in the opening minutes England worked the blind-side superbly with full-back Delon Armitage showing welcome signs of a return to form with two incisive thrusts.

On the third occasion, Hodgson chipped through the Maori defence, Ashton managed to toe it forward from right on the touchline and flanker Steffon Armitage was up in support to dot down for the try.

A further Hodgson penalty from a Maori scrum offence saw England 13-0 to the good inside 10 minutes.

But Luke McAlister got the hosts up and running with a penalty before they delivered the first of two devastating double-whammies to English hopes.

A superb counter-attack from full-back Robbie Robinson, carried on by McAlister and flanker Karl Lowe, ended with Gear bouncing off a weak attempted tackle from David Strettle and through Mathew Tait to score a thunderous try.

Moments later the visitors again contributed to their own downfall when number eight Phil Dowson, starting his first England match after joining the tour as a replacement, lost control of the ball at the base of a scrum.

Maori scrum-half Aaron Smith pounced on it and fly-half Stephen Brett delayed his pass perfectly for Messam to charge to the right corner.

Hodgson did well to bring him down, but the number eight was able to stretch to the line before his feet went into touch.

The impressive McAlister converted both tries for a 17-13 lead, but missed with a penalty attempt on the half-hour as the momentum switched again.

Hodgson's second penalty brought England to within a point and two quick-fire tries saw them lead at half-time.

First Care, who lost his Test starting spot to Ben Youngs, gave a reminder of his own attacking threat by taking a quick tap penalty and darting over, Hodgson converting.

Northampton wing Chris Ashton
Ashton's try gave England an 11-point lead at half-time

Within a minute, Hodgson came out of the defensive line on his own 22 to intercept McAlister's telegraphed long pass.

Sensing the covering Robinson behind him, Hodgson had the wit to look for support and found the flying Ashton to his left who finished with aplomb.

Hodgson missed the conversion - his first failure in six attempts - but an 11-point interval lead still looked a healthy one.

It was wiped out within six minutes of the resumption though as the Maori provided further evidence of their awesome handling and finishing power.

Brad Barritt and Tait failed to halt McAlister's initial midfield burst, and Gear's feint and step inside Delon Armitage was enough to propel him over for his second try.

McAlister's conversion made it 24-28, and the Maori regained the lead after turning over England ball at a ruck.

Messam's charge preceded an exquisite cut-out pass from lock Hayden Triggs which sent Gear charging over for his hat-trick score.

Trailing 29-28, England sent on Shane Geraghty at fly-half and Rob Webber at hooker, while fellow replacements James Haskell, Ben Youngs and Dan Ward-Smith also appeared on the hour.

But it was the Maori who came closest to scoring a fifth try after another strong McAlister thrust, and Delon Armitage was wide with an ambitious long-range penalty attempt.

Replacement Maori fly-half Ripia effectively put the game beyond England with two penalties in the last 10 minutes, but even then the tourists launched one last salvage act.

Ben Foden, on for the disappointing Tait, might have manufactured a late try, but his kick to the right corner was too long for the chasing Delon Armitage.

That left the Maori - who also beat England in 1998, the British and Irish Lions in 2005, and Ireland last week - to celebrate their centenary with another famous victory.

New Zealand Maori: Robbie Robinson (Southland); Sean Maitland Canterbury, Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), Luke McAlister (North Harbour), Hosea Gear (Wellington); Stephen Brett (Canterbury), Aaron Smith (Manawatu); Clint Newland (Hawke's Bay), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Ben Afeaki (North Harbour), Hayden Triggs (Otago), Jarrad Hoeata (Taranaki), Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty), Liam Messam (Waikato, capt).

Replacements: Dane Coles (Wellington - for Flynn, 57), Bronson Murray (Northland - for Newland, 65)), Isaac Ross (Canterbury - for Triggs, 67), Colin Bourke (Bay of Plenty - for Lowe, 65)), Ruki Tipuna (Wellington - for Smith, 57), Willie Ripia (Taranaki - for Brett, 60), Jackson Willison (Waikato).

England: Delon Armitage (London Irish); David Strettle (Harlequins), Mathew Tait (Sale), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Chris Ashton (Northampton); Charlie Hodgson (Sale), Danny Care (Harlequins); David Flatman (Bath), George Chuter (Leicester), Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester), David Attwood (Gloucester), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Phil Dowson (Northampton).

Replacements: Rob Webber (Wasps - for Chuter, 48), Dan Cole (Leicester - for Doran-Jones, 60), Dan Ward-Smith (Wasps - for Attwood, 60), James Haskell (Stade Francais - for S Armitage, 60), Ben Youngs (Leicester - for Care, 60), Shane Geraghty (Northampton - for Hodgson, 48), Ben Foden (Northampton - for Tait, 67).

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