Eight-try England romp marred by indiscipline
England 44 France 6
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 04 November 2012
The way Kallum Watkins sauntered over for his hat-trick try in the last minute summed up this match for England – a stroll in the Humberside sunshine.
Watkins was the star turn of an English back-line which was too good for France – although not as overwhelmingly so as they were for the Welsh last week.
Unlike that romp at Wrexham, this performance in front of a 7,000 crowd at Hull KR was marred by moments of indiscipline. Gareth Ellis will have a high tackle reviewed by the video panel this week and in the second half they conceded far too many penalties.
Josh Charnley's reward for his four tries against Wales was to be rested in favour of the local boy, Tom Briscoe. Zak Hardaker, the scorer of another two in Wrexham, stood aside for the return of the fit-again Sam Tomkins.
That looks like evidence of a luxury of choice in the outside backs and England always had plenty of strike-power at their disposal.
They first showed that after only five minutes, with Leroy Cudjoe's cross-field run and Richie Myler's long pass setting up Watkins for the first try of his three.
England then benefited from two decisions which could have gone the other way. For the first, the New Zealand referee, Shane Rehm, opted not to take any further immediate action against Ellis for a high tackle that saw the French full-back, Cyril Stacul, helped from the pitch.
He was taken to hospital for scans and is not expected to play next week. "It was an aberration," said the French coach, Aurelien Cologni, who admitted to being "frustrated" by the referee merely putting the matter on report.
The England coach, Steve McNamara, does not expect it to go any further. "Anyone who knows Gareth knows that he's not that sort of player," he said.
The second key decision was the video referee, Phil Bentham, ruling that there had been no second man in the tackle when Myler stripped the ball from Clement Soubeyras, so Briscoe's try was allowed to stand.
That ushered in England's best period of the game and they produced some lovely rugby before half-time, rewarded by tries from Watkins and Tomkins.
There were two more tries immediately after half-time, the first of them, from a neat offload by Adrian Morley, making Tomkins England's leading try-scorer in their history. That is not quite as impressive as it sounds, the national team having played for most of its existence as Great Britain, but his 14th put him ahead of Alf Ellaby in 1935.
The second came from a suspiciously forward pass from Gareth Hock to Briscoe. Hock was an intriguing choice as man of the match, because, at the end of a week full of rumour about him decamping to Australia, he did at least as much bad as good in this game.
England began to lose their way at this stage, not least by conceding seven penalties in a row, many of them when they were in possession.
"We were guilty of some ill-discipline in certain areas," said McNamara. "We gave ourselves a lot of work to do, but we did it."
His captain, Kevin Sinfield, pulled them round with a try to go with his eventual tally off six goals.
France, who had looked unlikely to ever score despite their glut of possession, finally got over the try-line through their hooker, Kane Bentley, before Watkins almost casually claimed his third with an intercept from Eloi Pelissier.
"He's a cracking young man with an amazing amount of talent," said McNamara.
Watkins' emergence has been one of the major pluses of a tournament that has failed to extend England. Under its arcane format, they play France again in the final at Salford next Sunday and it is hard to imagine the outcome being much different.
"We just need to finish the job off now," said Sinfield.
England Tomkins; Hall, Watkins, Cudjoe, Briscoe; Sinfield, Myler; Mossop, McIlorum, Hill, Ellis, Hock, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes used Burrow, Morley, Ablett, Harrison.
France Stacul; Cardace, Pala, Duport, Soubeyras; Bosc, Barthau; Elima, Bentley, Casty, Larroyer, Baitieri, Mounis. Substitutes used Pelissier, Griffi, Bemba, Simon.
Referee S Rehm (New Zealand).
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