'We simply out-Blacked the All Blacks'
November 27, 1993
Kyran Bracken spins the ball away against the All Blacks
© PA Photos
"The whole tour is built on this match. Everything we have done goes out the window if we lose." New Zealand captain, Sean Fitzpatrick's words before his team - a staggering 7-1 on to win at Twickenham - were brought down by Will Carling's England in 1993. While not the most elegant of victories, this was a raw contest won by the better team, who beat their opponents at their own game. Whatever New Zealand tried, England had the answer. "We simply out-Blacked the Blacks", wrote Brian Moore, England's hooker.
Both teams were beginning to rebuild for the 1995 World Cup and were peppered with youth. Quite handy youth, as it turned out, the unfamiliar names of the day including Martin Johnson, Tim Rodber and Kyran Bracken in white; Craig Dowd, Olo Brown and Jeff Wilson in black. Injury, illness and retirement created opportunities in equal measure, Bracken stepping in for 'flu ridden Dewi Morris at 48 hours notice and Eroni Clarke taking All Black kicker Matt Cooper's place at the last minute, with kicking duties passed to 20-year-old Jeff Wilson.
Wilson had scored a hat-trick of tries in a 51-15 thumping of Scotland the previous week, so New Zealand had won all ten matches on tour, whereas several of England's combinations were untried.
"Everything points to an All Black victory," wrote David Hands in The Times. "They have the form, the confidence and the proven skills against an England combination disrupted by injury and an inability to summon up the commanding form which will be required to win."
They also had dubious methods. Jamie Joseph's eye-watering stamp on Bracken's ankle in the opening minutes was no accident. Bracken hobbled through the rest of the game but ligament damage ruled him out for the next two months. Fitzpatrick's greeting of Victor Ubogu as a "black bastard" at the first scrum, as reported by Moore in The Sunday Times, sent him "down two or three notches" in Moore's estimation, though Fitzpatrick later denied this. Ubogu's reaction was to play a storming game, both in the set piece and in the loose.
Twickenham, with its new East Stand, witnessed a titanic struggle. The margin was never greater than six points as England's new full back, Jon Callard, and Wilson traded penalties. At first England absorbed All Black pressure, Rob Andrew and his midfield colleagues tackling furiously, aided by Ubogu and the back row, notably Rodber. Lock Nigel Redman, an England occasional filling in for the injured Bayfield, played one of the best games of his career.
New Zealand were prevented from producing any continuity. Eroni Clarke lacked the necessary wit and pace in the centre and Wilson, so magnificent against Scotland, played as if weighed down by the responsibility of taking the kicks, five of which he missed.
However, England could have buried New Zealand by half-time had they not passed up three try scoring chances. First Rory Underwood and Ubogu tidied up loose ball and, through Ben Clarke, sent Tony Underwood hurtling for the line, only to be brought down at the last by a superb tackle from John Timu.
Clarke then lost possession and a certain try as a rolling maul rumbled towards the All Black line. Minutes later the younger Underwood took a brilliant looping pass from Carling, but was caught short of the try line by Eroni Clarke.
The All Blacks forwards were profligate, often loitering behind England's lines, so giving away too many penalties, as they had done all tour. Callard punished them four times out of six when within range of the posts.
England celebrate their win over the All Blacks © PA Photos
The 6-0 half-time lead gave England's pack the self belief to man the barricades for a further 40 minutes. Their line-out went from strength to strength, claiming possession from 10 of their opponents' throws. Rodber, Dean Richards and Clarke kept hammering away, giving Bracken quick, clean ball and as comfortable a ride as he could have wished for in such illustrious company.
The game had its share of unforced errors, the tension getting to both sides as the clock wound down. Andrew's vast experience and cool head helped him marshal the defence in the closing minutes. Richards kept winning ball on the floor in his own way, Bracken maintained his composure and the link to Andrew who hoofed the ball to safety.
Always within one converted try of taking the lead, Fitzpatrick's men ran at England from all angles in those last minutes and came close to scoring, Timu putting a foot in touch as he just failed to escape the attention of Ubogu on the line. Once more Andrew cleared to touch and referee Burger's whistle started the party.
Some sections of the press got rather carried away. "An England team the best in the world", concluded The Sunday Times with a hint of hyperbole. Brian Moore was more sanguine, "For me, it was a feeling of intense satisfaction, of a game plan worked out in advance and stuck to."
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