The maths were simple as England took on France in the second game of the Perth double-header. A French win by sixteen points would see them overtake Lebanon for third place, and a quarter final place, and thirty-two to overtake England into second. An unthinkable forty-seven point French victory would put England on the plane home.
Coach Wayne Bennett sprang a few surprises in the England line-up as he looked to give a run out to some of his squad players and offer them a chance to play themselves into the quarter final seventeen.
Expectations were high that England would discover some World Cup form.
A superb passing move on three minutes saw Gareth Widdop open the England account when he was at the end of the line to go through a gap and touch down. He converted his own try for 6-0.
After the referee had denied England a try as he obstructed a break, Stefan Ratchford took the pass on the left wing and stretched out an arm to ground. Widdop added the two and it was a superb start for England.
On eight minutes England kept the ball alive with mark Percival going close before his offload ended up in the hands of James Graham to waft aside the French tackles and barge his way to the line. Widdop added the two for eighteen points in the opening ten minutes.
On twenty-two England had a two man overlap and Percival was the beneficiary as he had a walk in try. Widdop missed his first conversion attempt of the night.
Two quick England penalties on twenty-seven have the field position for John Bateman to go over, one on one, on his back and ground the ball. Widdop again failed with the conversion attempt but England were already out of sight at 26-0.
England’s defence was breached on thirty-four when Benjamin Garcia threw a dummy and stretched over the line to score under the sticks. Albert kicked the conversion as England paid the price of a couple of defensive mistakes.
After a blistering start from England the French found their feet and slowed the onslaught. England were unable to add to their points tally in the last thirteen of the half and led 26-6 at the break and were confirmed in the quarter finals.
Seventy second into the second half and a delightful no-look pass from Widdop put Jermaine McGillvary over for his first try of the game and England’s sixth. Widdop converted from wide for 32-6.
Forcing the pass, failing to complete sets of six and some lacklustre kicking signalled a drop off in intensity from England. But on sixty-three Jermaine McGillvary got his second of the game by the right corner flag. Widdop couldn’t kick the conversion and the McGillvary try was the last scoring action of the game as England won 36-6.
It had been a barnstorming start for England who romped to a big lead in the opening twenty minutes but once the game was over as a competition they seemed to lose some interest and allowed the French back into it. Gareth Widdop had a great game at full-back and will give the coach some food for thought as he looks for his starting seventeen to play PNG next weekend. France will pack their bags after a disappointing World Cup.
England: Widdop (T, 4G), Ratchford (T), Percival (T), Bateman (T), McGillvary (2T), Brown, Gale, Hill, Roby, Graham (T), McMeeken, Currie, O'Loughlin. Subs: Walmsley, Taylor, T. Burgess, Williams.