Cipriani impresses in victory
Published 17/06/2014 | 10:37
England registered a first victory on their tour of New Zealand with Danny Cipriani pressing his claim against a weakened Crusaders for a place on the bench in Saturday's final Test.
Just hours after Owen Farrell had been ruled out of the climax to the series at Waikato Stadium due to knee ligament damage, Cipriani cleverly set-up the opening try for Joe Gray and completed three of four conversions as part of a 38-7 victory.
Freddie Burns will resume as England's conductor against New Zealand after impressing in the first Test with Cipriani likely to deputise, unless head coach Stuart Lancaster opts against picking specialist cover.
Having conceded the series with Saturday's 28-27 defeat in Dunedin, England's midweek team answered Lancaster's call to lift spirits ahead of the final attempt of securing only a third away victory against the All Blacks.
Gray began the six-try rout at Christchurch's AMI Stadium with Ben Foden, Brad Barritt, Alex Goode, Anthony Watson and Chris Pennell also crossing in a resounding, if scrappy, victory.
Captain Ed Slater was missing from the scoresheet but he placed himself in contention for the fourth and final available second-row spot in the 2015 World Cup squad with a towering display.
A weakened Crusaders were missing their current All Blacks with only four of the 23 having been capped by New Zealand in the past and their limitations were apparent.
Equally evident, however, was the determination that enabled them to prevent a 26-7 half-time deficit from deteriorating into a heavy beating.
When Cipriani selflessly launched the points onslaught with only one minute on the clock, a cricket score beckoned.
An explosive start opened gaps in midfield and the Sale playmaker slipped into space before supplying the scoring pass to Gray.
Five minutes later England crossed for a second time with a moment of magic from Foden, whose feet were perfectly placed as he kept Goode's chip in play and touched down under the nose of outwitted wing Johnny McNicholl.
Aided by some loose kicking from the tourists, the Crusaders gained a foothold in the game with one thunderous hit by Jordan Taufua on James Haskell sending the muscular flanker hurtling backwards.
Only a last-ditch tackle from Goode prevented McNicholl from crossing but moments later England's fragmenting defence parted to welcome Matt Todd over the whitewash.
The try sobered England and they responded by attacking with greater intent, stretching the Crusaders until Foden was bundled into touch.
Having looked to put width on the ball, they reverted to a route one approach with Barritt bulldozing through two tackles and over the line.
England were woeful at the restarts, yet it barely knocked them off their stride as a fourth try was amassed when quick hands after a bullocking run from Slater saw Goode ghost in.
Slater was having a magnificent game as he led the defensive effort against a lively start to the second half from the Crusaders.
England began to empty their bench and it took until the 60th minute for the next try to arrive with full-back Pennell putting Watson into space.
There was still work to do but Watson's footwork and pace enabled him to round two defenders and sprint home.
The Crusaders enjoyed their best spell of the match in the final quarter with a double tackle from Foden and Pennell stopping Taufua in the left corner.
A 17,500 sell-out crowd willed the Crusaders on for a final try, but instead it came from England as Pennell collected Barritt's injury-time chip and dived over.