Crabtree spares England blushes as Tri-Nations hopefuls prove rusty

England 22 France 12
Click to follow

Second-half tries from Luke Robinson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and the outstanding Eorl Crabtree saw England home after a much improved French sideheld a shock lead at half-time. "Defensively I thought we were outstanding,'' said the England coach Karl Harrison. "But we were a bit rusty with the ball.''

England had started brightly enough with Crabtree supplying the ball to send his Huddersfield team-mate, Chris Thorman, through a gap for the game's first try.

But for the rest of the half, France were the better side by a distance. From the moment Jerome Hermet intercepted Robinson's pass to set up an attack that ended with the hooker, David Berthezene, going over for their first try, they looked like potential winners.

Olivier Charles, almost had a second, but the penalty awarded when he was held back allowed France to build momentum and eventually score through Freddie Zitter.

With two goals from Laurent Frayssinous, they had a well deserved 12-6 advantage at the interval.

In the second half an individual try from Robinson brought the scores level. When Jones-Buchanan scored from Thorman's clever kick seven minutes later, England were on their way to victory.

Crabtree's close-range try three minutes from the end of the match, flattered the home side.

England: Mathers (Leeds); Calderwood (Leeds), Sykes (London), Reardon (Bradford), Gardner (St Helens); Thorman (Huddersfield), Robinson (Salford); Crabtree (Huddersfield), Alker (Salford), Wood (Warrington), Radford (Bradford), Jones-Buchanan (Leeds), C Charles (Salford). Substitutes used: Gleeson (Warrington), Bennett (St Helens), Griffin (Wakefield), Lynch (Bradford).

France: Guigue; Zitter, Hermet, Couturier, O Charles; Frayssinous, Rinaldi; Guisset, Berthezene, Fellous, Raguin, Fakir, Mounis. Substitutes used: Greseque, Carrasco, Ferriol, Moly.

Referee: G Black (New Zealand).

* Bradford say Leslie Vainikolo will not be able to play for New Zealand in the Tri-Nations because he is to have a knee operation today.