England ease past France to reach quarter-finals


Highlights: England 36-6 France
Rugby League World Cup
England (26) 36
Tries: Widdop, Ratchford, Graham, Percival, Bateman, McGillvary 2 Goals: Widdop 4
France (6) 6
Try: Garcia Goal: Albert

England set up a World Cup quarter-final against Papua New Guinea by easing past France in Perth.

Although Wayne Bennett’s side won by a comfortable 30-point margin, the Australian head coach will be concerned by another disjointed showing.

England effectively ended the contest after just nine minutes by scoring three quick tries courtesy of the impressive Gareth Widdop, Stefan Ratchford and James Graham.

Centres Mark Percival and John Bateman both went over but French forward Benjamin Garcia’s brilliant dummy allowed him to touch down from close range before half-time.

Jermaine McGillvary took his tally to nine tries from eight games by scoring twice in a scrappy second half, but the team failed to add further points to the scoreboard.

England will face Papua New Guinea in Melbourne next Sunday (kick-off 05:00 GMT), live on BBC TV, radio and online.

Widdop impresses from full-back

Bennett made five changes to his team to give the fringe players a runout in the competition, but the Australian now has a selection headache for the next game in the knockout stages.

Veteran Kevin Brown showed his experience by directing the play and was heavily involved in England’s free-flowing attacking play in the first 40 minutes, combining superbly with half-back partner Luke Gale and Widdop.

St George Illawarra Dragons player Widdop was switched to full-back from stand-off, but his support play provided a constant threat to the French defence and he opened the scoring by breaking clear in the opening two minutes.

It was Widdop’s speed and quick offloads that set up tries for Percival and McGillvary, while he also added eight points with the boot.

Former Great Britain international Jonathan Davies said on BBC Two: “Widdop is going to play in the quarter-final next weekend, but where is most beneficial? I think it is full-back. He has got great vision, a great kicking game and he is a finisher.”

St Helens full-back Jonny Lomax, who is recovering from injury, may well be the man to miss out again but prop Sam Burgess said he is fit to return after a knee injury.

Mistakes will annoy Bennett

England made more errors but missed fewer tackles than France

England defended well in their defeat by Australia and were incoherent in attack in their victory over Lebanon.

Bennett had asked for “a mistake-free game” against France and will be annoyed he did not get this.

His side made 13 handling errors in the match, 10 of which came in the second half, and missed a total of 20 tackles.

Assistant coach Denis Betts told BBC Sport: “It was a great first half, just a very disjointed, sloppy second half.

“I was happy we did not concede another try, keeping them to six, but the completion rate was not good enough, ball control was really poor and the decision-making and options were not good enough.

“The coaches are not happy, Wayne is not happy, the players are not happy with the display we put on, the lack of discipline and maybe getting over-confident at times.

“It is hard to put a finger on why. I have got to highlight how clinical we were at the start and some of the attacking skills were outstanding but we have got to do that for 80 minutes.”

McGillvary, allowed to play after being cleared of biting in the previous game, dropped a simple high kick and from the resulting set Tom Burgess tried to anticipate Garcia’s pass, but the Frenchman threw a dummy and burrowed in from close range.

Although Huddersfield’s McGillvary scored twice in the second half, his efforts came 20 scoreless minutes apart in which his side failed to complete sets and dropped balls when they should have converted.

Castleford forward Mike McMeeken took his eye off the ball and spilled a pass close to the line, while prop James Graham gave the ball away when attempting to offload but went unpunished as Lucas Albert ran 70 metres to score, but referee Phil Bentham adjudged a forward pass in the move.

World Cup blown wide open

Tonga’s surprise 28-22 victory over 2008 champions New Zealand on Saturday was a result that had a significant impact on the rest of the tournament and England in particular.

Bennett’s side face Papua New Guinea – the only country in the world which classes rugby league as their national sport – after they emerged top of Group C ahead of Ireland and Wales.

More interestingly for England, they will avoid holders Australia and the Kiwis in the semi-finals if they progress and those two sides will not contest the final for the first time since 1995.

World Cup quarter-finals
Friday, 17 November Australia v Samoa 09:00 GMT Darwin
Saturday, 18 November New Zealand v Fiji 04:00 GMT Christchurch
Saturday, 18 November Tonga v Lebanon 06:30 GMT Wellington
Sunday, 19 November England v Papua New Guinea 05:00 GMT Melbourne

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.

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