England overcame France by a scoreline of 34-6 in their quarter-final clash at the DW stadium in Wigan, setting up a semi final tie with current World Cup holders, New Zealand.
France were comfortable in the early stages despite an injury to hooker Kane Bentley, and they took a deserved lead on four minutes.
The visitors did well to build some pressure on the England line, and Sébastien Raguin produced a fine offload on four minutes, which landed in the hands of centre Vincent Duport who crashed through England’s defensive line to score and silence the 22,000-strong home crowd.
England were in need of a quick response before any sense of panic had the chance to set in, and they got one in the form of a Josh Charnley try on ten minutes.
The hosts had a scrum ten metres from the opposition line and did well to work the ball wide to the right through the hands of James Graham and Kevin Sinfield, before Sam Tomkins took on the defence and offloaded to Wigan Warriors teammate Charnley who crossed in the corner to level the scores.
England were ahead soon after and it was Tomkins who provided the final pass once again.
Sinfield and Rangi Chase combined to switch the ball quickly across the pitch and Tomkins opened a gap for Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall who finished well from 15 metres to make it 12-6.
England continued their rampant spell, a trait which has fast become a trademark of their play in this World Cup, with a second Josh Charnley try on 25 minutes.
James Roby, who had come on in place of Michael McIlorum, had noticeably quickened England’s attack since his introduction. The St. Helens man moved the ball on to Kevin Sinfield despite pressure from the French defence, Sinfield then brought Kallum Watkins into the play, and the Leeds Rhinos centre offloaded impressively to Charnley who had a simple finish in the corner to further extend England’s lead.
Minutes later, England were 22-6 ahead.
James Roby ran at the defence from hooker to disrupt the visitors’ defence and this run gave Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin space to move the ball on to South Sydney forward Sam Burgess, who quickly moved the ball on to Huddersfield Giants centre Leroy Cudjoe who used the space at his disposal to draw in the French winger and allow Hall in for his second try of the game, and his eighth try in just four World Cup matches.
England’s dominance finally relented somewhat with France holding firm into half time, but England came out and added their fifth try of the game on 47 minutes, when O’Loughlin finished a try which involved the home side’s devastating left edge once again.
Ryan Hall rose highest to a Rangi Chase kick and his knock back fell fortuitously into the hands of Leroy Cudjoe, who passed to the charging O’Loughlin who was not going to be stopped from 10 metres out.
With the scores at 28-6, a scrappy half of rugby ensued with France wasting a number of opportunities due to a poor final ball, while England defended well, but rarely threatened the French line.
Finally, Huddersfield’s Brett Ferres closed out the scoring in the 77th minute on the back of an impressive delayed pass from Rangi Chase.
A somewhat disappointing performance which was described by England coach Steve McNamara as his side’s “worst performance of the tournament”, but it got the job done. Much improvement is needed if England are to overcome world champions New Zealand on Saturday and progress to the final showpiece at Old Trafford on the 30th of November.