Litany of Blunder in the History of England During World up..

Steve Borthwick’s team made a litany of blunders in their underwhelming World Cup victory over a spirited Samoa side in Owen Farrell’s go-slow kick.

And just when you thought it was safe to leave behind the sofa. Steve Borthwick’s England had the misfortune on Saturday to come into a team in form, and the hard-won victories they had gained throughout the tournament seemed to slip straight back away from them.

They suddenly looked like the same bland and lumpen bunch who went to Fiji for a warm-up game before the competition. Samoa came close to making it a double. They had never come within eight points of defeating England before, but it needed a 73rd-minute try to prevent them from triumphing this time.

England were pitiful, and the hundreds of French men and women in the stadium were ecstatic. They adopted the Samoans as their own and serenaded them with screams of “Allez les Bleus” throughout the game. Unless you were rooting for England, it was a brutal Test.

The only positive outcome for their supporters was the 18-17 victory. And, of course, Borthwick may argue that’s all that matters. He praised the team’s character and claimed they had discovered “a way to win,” but only because they had nearly found a way to lose to them first.

The lowest of many low points came in the 65th minute, when England trailed by six points. Their captain, Owen Farrell, prepared himself for a penalty attempt towards goal from 15m away on the angle. Close your eyes and picture it: three steps back and three steps across, he leaned forward and back again, forward and back again, forward and back again, stopped, hitched his shorts, hunched his shoulders, stared at the posts, stared at the ball, then stopped, started forward, step step, step… and the whistle blew.

Because, while Farrell was meditating and waiting, the giant red shot clock in the corner had reached zero. The Samoans charged forward from the tryline, shouting and leaping like a swarm of teenagers fleeing the classroom after the final bell of the summer term, while Farrell stared dumbly back at them before turning to check with the referee, Andrew Brace. It would have been a dreadful mistake for a novice, let alone a player who had just scored his 1,180th point for England, passing Jonny Wilkinson to become the country’s all-time leading scorer.

His teammates later gave him a framed portrait, but judging by the look on his face when he acknowledged it, it will be a bittersweet memory tainted by how he and the team performed in this game. “I didn’t see the clock, and I got lost a little bit in the kick,” Farrell explained later. “That is insufficient. I’m relieved that it didn’t cost us the game.”


To make matters worse, England was penalized at the ensuing scrum. It was the kind of match where error after error exacerbated the effects of the previous one. When Samoa scored their second try, England fell behind for the first time in nearly four hours of World Cup rugby.

Farrell gathered them in a huddle and gave them brief, crisp orders on how they were going to re-enter the game. A few moments later. England had the ball at a lineout outside the Samoan 22 and planned to maul forwards, but Ben Earl ruined everything by committing an unnecessary penalty.

Samoa worked the ball across the field, where England won a turnover. Alex Mitchell launched a mediocre box kick that slid back down to the earth like a dormant firework. The ball was bundled forward, and Duncan Paia’aua raced it down and scored in the corner before anybody else could react. Or at least he would have if the referee hadn’t brought him back for a knock-on in the run-up. It was the worst stretch of performance England have put in since the competition began. Given Borthwick’s fastidious nature, the Monday debrief may extend into midweek.

He’ll go over a long list of what went wrong before getting to Farrell’s performance. He may begin by noting that most of these players were returning from a fortnight’s rest after playing in their first Test in three weeks. This was mostly evident in their defense. It has been watertight throughout the tournament, but against Samoa it had the intensity and urgency of a couple of parents who have just spent the week taking their children to Disneyland Paris. Which, of course, is exactly what his squad’s fathers have been doing.

He may also be tempted by England’s desperate predictability. As hard as England hit, Samoa knew precisely what they were going to hurl at them and anticipated every punch.

“We never felt threatened on our line, even though England threw everything at us,” said Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua. After all, staying one step ahead of a team whose idea of an attacking variation is to throw a few of extra men into their next rolling maul isn’t that difficult.

But the uncomfortable truth is that England’s worst performance in this tournament coincided with Farrell starting alongside George Ford for the first time in over two and a half years. They were a lot better once Ford was replaced by Marcus Smith. But, given how good England had been in previous weeks when Ford led the attack without Farrell, you have to ask if Borthwick rested the wrong one of his three playmakers.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.