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Rugby League World Cup: England 42 Ireland 0
BOSS Steve McNamara was left “pretty pleased” after his England side beat Ireland 42-0 in front of a record crowd in Huddersfield today.
Having seen likely semi-final opponents New Zealand hammer France 48-0 in front of a partisan Avignon crowd last night, England had to lay down a Rugby League World Cup marker of their own – and do so in the face of yet more controversy in-house.
They scored some wonderful tries, including a 19-minute first-half hat-trick by man-of-the-match Ryan Hall, and got the job done in comprehensive fashion, likewise nilling the opposition, despite keeping front-rowers James Graham and George Burgess off the field for large parts due to minor dead legs. However, with scrappy phases thrown in, it was not the complete performance against an Irish side featuring several semi-pro players who are sure to prop up the group ‘A’ table.
Ireland boss Mark Aston reckoned England still had “some work to do to get to the levels they want to be at”. But McNamara said: “We had a real purple patch in the first half and played with great shape. The conditions were better in the first half than the second and we executed some nice stuff.”
Hall gave England a third-minute lead, Leroy Cudjoe almost wasting a huge overlap with the defence sucked in, before sending out the pass.
The Leeds winger soon got his second, Cudjoe again with the scoring pass, but this try was all about Brett Ferres’ brilliance, Kevin Sinfield adding the first of his four conversions.
Second-row Ferres had been a late call-up prior to the tournament after Gareth Hock was sent home, and boss McNamara had to answer more difficult questions about squad discipline before today’s match too, denying rumours Zak Hardaker had also been booted out.
Tom Briscoe, Leeds’ new signing from Hull and older brother of York City Knights’ dual-reg starlet Jack, who had replaced the injured Josh Charnley on the wing, increased the lead, superbly beating Pat Richards to take Rangi Chase’s crossfield kick.
He got his second try in the next play, cutting inside with pace, following Sam Tomkins’ break. Aston, also the Sheffield Eagles boss, would not have been happy with the Wolfhounds’ defending.
Hall’s hat-trick try in the next set finished a scintillating move involving half the team, and the procession continued, as Tomkins sent half the Ireland defence for a cup of tea before sending in Ferres.
With the game over as a contest after 23 minutes, at 30-0, it all got a bit scrappy.
Substitute prop Luke Ambler, Halifax’s former York loanee, tried to fire up the Irish and they did keep England blank for over half an hour, until Briscoe padded back a chip kick for Kallum Watkins to touch down just after the rain began to pore.
Scrum-half Chase, still struggling to win over his doubters, got on the end of a Tomkins run and grubber kick for his first England try, substitute Gareth Widdop goaling, before winger Damien Blanch missed Ireland’s best chance when unable to catch a kick in the corner.
The second half saw only two tries but the crowd of 24,375 – a John Smith’s Stadium best for any sporting event – went home happy enough, England now virtually assured of a place in the quarter-finals.
• York-based Ross Divorty, Halifax's former York City Knights second-row, missed out on selection for a second time as Wales crashed out of the World Cup following a 24-16 defeat by the USA.
Meanwhile, Scotland scored a late try to draw 30-30 with Italy. Former York ace Danny Brough kicked five goals for the Scots but missed the conversion that would have won the game.
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