Sam Tomkins looked ready for bigger things, but England did not in an uninspiring win over the plucky Welsh here in Bridgend. The Wigan stand-off scored two tries and set up two more as he showed that he will have much to offer, if called upon for the Four Nations when England get down to serious business.
There was little else to cheer their coach, Tony Smith, as it was only in the last quarter that the Welsh were overwhelmed in Iestyn Harris' first match in charge. A repeat of last year's 74-0 thrashing at Doncaster was never on the cards and that should give the new coach some encouragement.
Rugby league's progress in Wales is long-term and gradual, and a line-up containing six debutants never looked as if it should be capable of containing an England team with sterner opposition on their horizon. The match preparation for another Welsh player, Rhys Griffiths, included acting as a pall-bearer at his grandmother's funeral yesterday morning.
Astonishingly, it was Wales who took an early lead thanks to Paul Sykes fumbling Ian Webster's kick and Craig Kopczak twisting over the line from close range. Unfortunately for any wild dreams of a close contest, the Welsh full-back Elliot Kear reciprocated with an error, Tomkins scoring the first of his tries in the corner.
Wales held their own for the first quarter, until Tomkins struck again. Kopczak was penalised in the tackle and Sam Burgess's off-load let the young stand-off show his footwork and balance to score from 20 metres.
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook scored from Micky Higham's pass as soon as the pair came on. Then Tomkins' low kick was deflected into the path of Burgess as England showed signs of taking control. But there was still defiance in Lloyd White's penalty from half-way on the stroke of half-time.
England, still disjointed after the break, suffered the embarrassment of a second Welsh try after 50 minutes. After conceding a penalty for offside, they watched as Ian Watson tapped the ball to himself and went over.
The backline move to release Tom Briscoe for a nerve-settling try was followed by Sean O'Loughlin touching down from another Tomkins kick. Adrian Morley and Briscoe with his second stretched the lead, but there is still much to do – with nine Leeds and St Helens players to help. "Tony will have learned a lot more than he did 12 months ago," Harris said. "People in Wales can be very encouraged."
Wales Kear; Bateman, Blackwood, Griffiths, R Williams; White, Webster; James, Budworth, Dudson, Kopczak, Davies, Flower. Substitutes used: Barron, Watson, L Williams, Divorty.
England Sykes; Fox, O'Loughlin, Shenton, Briscoe; Tomkins, Myler; Morley, Moore, Carvell, Ellis, Westwood, Burgess. Substitutes used: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Higham, Tickle, Bridge.
Referee: T Alibert (France).Reuse content