Agnew: England threaten record

England coach Eddie Jones. Photo / Wikimedia Commons.

The broken legs suffered by Brad Webber, Mitchell Graham and Vaea Fifita were a heavy price to pay for the Chiefs and Hurricanes at the inaugural Super 10 rugby competition in Brisbane.

With the oppressive heat making the ball slippery, 10s failed to deliver the same excitement generated by sevens.

In winning the tournament as a tribute to the late Sione Lauaki, the Chiefs demonstrated their depth after four NZ teams made the quarter-finals and three the semis despite the absence of All Blacks.

But the loss of Webber in particular could hurt them later, even though they can still field Tawera Kerr-Barlow who was Aaron Smith’s 2015 World Cup deputy before losing his place last year to lively Hurricane star PJ Perenara.

The Hurricanes will also rue the loss of rangy flanker/lock Fifita who is one of the fastest forwards in the country and has yet to fulfil his enormous potential.

Winning 33-5 against Japan’s Wild Knights, 12-10 against the Reds and 26-14 against the Bulls, the Chiefs edged the Crusaders 12-7 to take the $100,000 first prize.

Meanwhile, having secured 16 straight wins under coach Eddie Jones’ tenure, England are on track to equal or better the All Blacks tier one world rugby record of 18 consecutive wins.

Despite the fact they were forced to battle hard in nail-biting 19-16 and 21-16 Six Nation wins against France and Wales respectively, England are no longer the stodgy performers of years gone by.

Aussie Jones changed all that in transforming England into the genuine force they were in winning the 2003 World Cup under Clive Woodward whose reward was a knighthood.

Admittedly, there wasn’t much sparkling attack against Wales but their composure and defence was rock solid under enormous pressure. And they took their chance with a splendid try to Elliot Daly when Jonathan Davies failed to find touch.

Just as Wales does with Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar, England have a champion goal-kicker in Owen Farrell who should be a major threat to the All Blacks when the British and Irish Lions tour here this year.

Although England is renowned for the power of their pack with lock Joe Launchbury winning man of the match honours, Wales easily won the turnover count 9-1.

Having edged rejuvenated France 19-17 in round one, England are favourites to win the Six Nations crown but could find Ireland a stumbling block after bouncing back from their 22-27 to Scotland loss with an emphatic 63-10 shellacking of Italy.

With kayak star Lisa Carrington winning the women’s and supreme prizes at the Halberg Awards, television coverage clearly illustrated the beautiful heart-warming personalities of her and fellow contestants Sophie Pascoe, Eliza McCartney and Lydia Ko.

Each remains humble in presenting her own unique character in a way in which we can take pride.

As the first Kiwi woman to win two medals (gold and bronze) at an Olympic Games, Carrington was naturally delighted that it was her mentor, Gordon Walker, who was named Coach of the Year.

Certainly the standard was exceptionally high in all categories, especially the teams award in which sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke pipped coxless pair oarsmen Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.

That would have been a hard choice but the sailors’ 45-point Olympic gold medal winning margin sealed it.

By: Ivan Agnew

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author