RUGBY WORLD CUP: ENGLAND 41-10 GEORGIA
After a week spent defending his England players, Martin Johnson gave them both barrels yesterday.
He had steadfastly refused to condemn them over Dwarfgate, standing full square behind the ‘party’ crew.
Yet when their indiscipline crossed the line between drunken revelry off the park and World Cup performance on it he let rip.
“I’m a bit annoyed,” he said with massive understatement after seeing his side labour to victory over the world’s 16th ranked nation.
“If I’m happy with those standards then we’ll go home early. That’s not being downbeat, just realistic. We’ve got to be tough on ourselves.”
England scored six tries to pick up a bonus point and move to the top of Pool B, ahead of Scotland on points difference.
But they conceded 15 penalties, 11 in the first half, against a team of meagre resources being forced to play its second game in four days.
And had fly-half Merab Kvirikashvili not missed five of his six penalty shots at goal they could well have been made to pay.
Johnson was incensed, slamming the indiscipline in defence and over-elaborate play in attack.
“It was sloppy and it annoys me,” he seethed. “I don’t want us to be that type of team.”
His reaction initially shocked his players, notably Shontayne Hape (below), scorer of England’s first two tries.
“We thought we might at least get a smile out of him after we ran in a few tries in the second half,” said the centre. “But he was spewing: yelling and screaming.
“He felt there was too much razzle-dazzle, and that we wasted far too many try-scoring opportunities. When you look back at it, I suppose he’s got a point.”
England did eventually put the contest to bed with second half tries from Delon Armitage, Manu Tuilagi and Chris Ashton (2).
But after what their boss said, the players were not about to sound anything but disgusted with themselves.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs blamed the forwards for giving away so many penalties, number eight James Haskell (below) spared nobody.
In an extraordinary attack he claimed the players were “letting themselves down”.
Haskell stormed: “The players need to look at themselves and realise they are not working as hard as they should be.
“There’s no questioning the effort but guys are over-eager at the breakdown when we need to be a bit more patient. I am sick of saying the same stuff. The public and the media must be sick of hearing the same stuff.
“People should be excited about this team, excited about our performances, but we are letting ourselves down, we are stuck in a bit of a mire.”
Haskell added that the days of pretending all in the garden is rosy are over.
“It has got to that stage, got that serious,” he said. “We know the cause, feel the frustration.
“We are not relentless at all at the moment. We are not in control and there is uncertainty which makes everyone go ‘Christ what’s going on?’
“I play with these guys week in week out, the quality is there. When we do get it right we score a try then, next phase, drop the ball, turn it over, give a penalty.
“Look at the good sides. They have that control, whatever happens you feel they are going to win. With England at the moment you feel this could go either way.”
Haskell, who only played because Nick Easter pulled out injured on the day of the game, is demanding immediate action.
“When it comes to the meetings people have got to start pointing some fingers, and saying this is not acceptable,” he said.
“It starts with identifying individuals, areas we need to improve. It is about being hard on ourselves, but not getting too down.”
Ashton (above), who crossed the try line for the first time in six Tests, rejected any link between England’s poor display and their antics in midweek.
“You can’t relate it to what happened because nothing happened,” said the Northampton wing, who could be in further trouble after a swallow dive celebration which totally misjudged the mood.
“We had a night out and that was it. We relaxed like every other team.”
Ironically it is now, rather than last week, that England need to clear their heads, before turning their attentions to Saturday’s clash with Romania.
But after events in Queenstown they are going to have to make do with an alka seltzer in a glass of water in their own hotel rooms.
“Dwarf throwing’ and bungy jumping are strictly off limits. Playtime is over. For England the World Cup has just got very serious.
ENGLAND: Foden, Ashton, Tuilagi (Banahan 67), Hape, Armitage, Flood, Youngs (Simpson 67); Stevens (Cole 75), Hartley (Thompson 61), Cole (Corbisiero 63), Shaw, Palmer, Wood, Moody (Croft 58), Haskell.
Tries: Hape 2, Armitage, Tuilagi, Ashton 2. Cons: Flood 4. Pen: Flood. Sin-bin: Hartley (40).
GEORGIA: Gigauri, Machkhaneli (Khmaladze 42), Kacharava, Zibzibadze, Todua, Kvirikashvili, Abuseridze (Samkharadze 63); Khinchagashvili, Bregvadze, Kubriashvili, Zedginidze (Datunashvili 5), Maisuradze, Sutiashvili (Chkhaidze 31), Gorgodze, Basilaia (Berishvili 60).
Try: Gigauri. Con: Kvirikashvili. Pen: Kvirikashvili.