England Rugby League team set up a World Cup Quarter Final game with Papua New Guinea in Melbourne next weekend with a 36-6 win over France in their final pool game.
With England already secured a place in the quarters finals, England Coach Wayne Bennett made several changes to his team, which would enable some of the squad players a chance to earn their place in next week’s squad, while also testing out some new combinations of players.
This meant Kevin Brown, Mike McMeeken, Mark Percival and Scott Taylor would all get their first games of this World cup campaign as they replaced Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins, Elliot Whitehead and Josh Hodgeson in the 17 man squad.
To accommodate these changes Gareth Widdop was moved to Full Back so Kevin Brown could partner Luke Gale in the half backs while Stefan Ratchford was named in the unfamiliar position of winger.
England started the game like a house on fire, with three tries in the first 9 minutes to effectively end any chances of France getting the shock victory they needed to qualify for the next round. Some slick passing saw Widdop slide through the French defence to open the scoring after 90 seconds, before more acute passing created space for Ratchford to score minutes later. On England’s next attack some excellent French cover defence denied Mark Percival a try, only for veteran James Graham to crash over on the next play! With Widdop adding the extras England were 18-0!
Unfortunately, this is where England decided to take the foot of the gas, and slowly allowed the French to crawl back into the game with sloppy errors and poor decision making, however they still manged to cross two more times in the first half thanks to centres Percival and John Bateman.
France did manage to sneak some points back on the stroke of half time, when Benjamin Garcia produced an outrageous dummy that followed all the England defence enough for him to squeeze off by the posts.
The Second half became an even more scrappy affair blighted with errors and dropped balls galore, but on the two occasions England did click they produced enough space on the flanks for Jermaine McGillvary to add two more tries to his world cup tally making him England’s top try scorer with four.
England: Widdop, Ratchford, Percival, Bateman, McGillvary, Brown, Gale, Hill, Roby, Graham, Currie, McMeeken, O'Loughlin.
Interchanges: Walmsley, T Burgess, Taylor, Williams.
France: Kheirallah, Yaha, Ader, Jullien, Bergal, Fages, Albert, Maria, Boudebza, Herold, Garcia, Bousquet, Baitieri.
Interchanges: Navarette, Margalet, Touch, Djalout.