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England 'frustrated' after Rugby League World Cup opening day loss to Australia
STEVE McNAMARA said the overriding emotion was one of frustration after England fell 28-20 to Australia in their Rugby League World Cup opener in Cardiff today.
England led 10-0 early on, Leeds’ Ryan Hall scoring the first try of the tournament, but Australia gradually got on top to take a 22-10 lead three minutes after half-time.
Tries by George Burgess and Josh Charnley kept England hopes alive, but the Kangaroos, despite not being at their very best, always had the edge.
Head coach McNamara said: “We are frustrated. We had to cling on at times. We started superbly and played with great energy with the ball and defended our try line pretty well but we gifted a lot of possession to the opposition which soaked a lot of our energy up and we gave a lot of penalties away as well.
“So we sat there thinking what could have been and what probably should have been if we’d been a bit cleaner in those areas.”
McNamara bluntly stated the events of the past week – the warm-up loss to Italy and disciplinary action against Gareth Hock, who was sent home, and James Graham, who was left out of the team – had had no effect on England’s performance.
But he did say: “We had to be at our best or near our best, all of us, to win but we fell a little bit short. When they (Australia) scored three minutes after the restart the players showed tremendous courage to defend their line, hold it out, come to the other end and put us within six points again.
“We got a lot of positives from it but there’s a real sense of frustration that we didn’t finish the job off.”
England, showing no little confidence, passed up the chance for an easy two points by running a seventh-minute penalty - and they gained reward, Hall crashing over in the corner from Sam Tomkins’ cut-out pass.
They did so again after 14 minutes but this time luck was against them, Burgess having a try ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler after losing the ball one freeze-frame too early through a crowd of bodies.
England looked considerably better than they had against Italy, and added to their lead as Kevin Sinfield’s reverse kick bounced awkwardly and Leroy Cudjoe pounced expertly, Sinfield goaling.
Australia had only looked dangerous in spurts, but, after a short period of pressure, Johnathan Thurston hit back, taking the scoring pass, and adding the first of his three conversions, after Greg Inglis had out-jumped Tomkins under a chip kick.
England’s resolve on their own line was broken. Penalties were also going the Kangaroos’ way, their sixth preceding a try by Greg Bird which put them ahead.
They also got the referee’s call – rightly – when Tomkins broke only to be brought back for a forward pass. Salt was rubbed into England wounds as, from the scrum, Billy Slater streaked home for an 18-10 interval lead.
England had to score next to stand a real chance but winger Charnley was controversially adjudged - by English touch judge Robert Hicks - to have put a foot on the sideline when chasing back to gather a kick, and, following the scrum, Brett Morris finished to make it 22-10.
McNamara’s men did dig deep, though, and when Burgess planted the ball down after crashing through, video ref Thaler this time awarded the try.
Sinfield goaled to bring England within one converted touchdown, but, with the next score crucial, Thurston eked up the Aussies’ lead with a penalty and, following a couple more soft free-kicks, Darius Boyd sealed victory with a 72nd-minute try in the corner.
England struck back, Charnley with an interception try from a poor Slater pass, but Sinfield missed the conversion, meaning there would be no grandstand finish.
*YORK-BASED Ross Divorty was 18th man for Wales as they began their campaign with a 32-16 defeat to World Cup debutants Italy, a team full of Australia-based ex-pats.
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