Tries: Jennings, Hunt, Inglis
Goals: Smith 2/3
Tries: Watkins, Hall
Goals: Widdop 2/2
It was another case of so close yet so far for England as they went down 16-12 to Australia in the second round of games in the Four Nations.
They let slip a 12-4 lead at half-time as they went scoreless in the second period with the talking point a last minute effort from Ryan Hall being denied by the video referee, despite it looking like he got a finger to the ball.
England were dominant in long periods in the game however they looked too complacent with the eight point cushion in the second half instead of trying to extend their lead over the Aussies.
The visitors were on top in the middle of the field and it was a decision from both coaches which changed the game.
Tim Sheens introduced Ben Hunt, a halfback, at the expense of front rower Sam Thaiday to add an extra ball player to his team. That was a sign that Sheens knew his side couldn’t deal with the power their opponents had in the middle and instead played around them.
Steve McNamara on the other hand failed to re-introduce Daryl Clark, who has caused havoc to the Kangaroos when he was on field, until the last five minutes in the second half. Had he introduced him ten minutes earlier it could have been a different story for the tourists.
The Aussies opened the scoring through Michael Jennings, as he was on hand to support Greg Bird’s powerful break before shrugging off the England defenders in his way to score.
There were questions raised about the grounding as Jennings didn’t look to have full control of the ball however it was given and the hosts led 4-0.
As the game headed towards the half hour mark there was still no sign of a ‘WOW’ moment in a game that promised so much, enter Ryan Hall.
The huge England winger returned a kick brilliantly and broke towards the Australia try line, he then found Clark in support who was eventually dragged into touch illegally by Greg Inglis just ten metre out giving the visitors the perfect platform to attack.
They took full advantage from the resulting set as Widdop, Smith and Tomkins linked up well to send Kallum Watkins over for a well-deserved England try. Widdop landed a conversion from out wide to send them into a slim 6-4 lead.
England had the momentum and when Inglis failed to field a Smith kick it gave them the chance to extend their lead. They did just that as Dan Sarginson marked his debut with a brilliant one handed flick pass to his winger Ryan Hall for him to score his 22nd try for his country and put them 12-4 in front.
There was one last chance for Australia to close the gap before the half time hooter when Jennings left Watkins for dead but couldn’t pull off the pass to find Mansour who was in acres of space out wide.
England very nearly made them rue that bombed try when Graham’s clever inside ball to Tomkins set him free in the middle of the field and it was Clark in support once again however his pass found the floor and not Widdop.
It was a fast paced start to the second half with both teams trading blows down the middle of the field. Australia looked to be back in the game when Greg Inglis crossed after six minutes but it was disallowed for an obstruction which led to him scoring.
The Aussies did cross first in the second forty though as substitute Ben Hunt timed his run perfectly onto Cameron Smith’s stabbed kick from dummy half and it was Smith’s conversion which put them within two points of England.
A towering kick from Hunt caused all kinds of problems for Josh Charnley who knocked the ball back over his own try line with Jennings closing in on the loose ball, however the reactions of Watkins denied Jennings a second as he pushed the ball dead.
It was only a matter of time before the home side took the lead though as the resulting set from the drop out ended with Inglis’ trademark celebration. Daly Cherry-Evans found a gap in the Wall of White between Hodgson and Watkins before he drew the fullback Sam Tomkins and released GI to score.
Australia were in control thanks to Hunt’s inclusion and England were desperate for a score which they were controversially denied with 45 seconds left on the clock. A kick into Australia’s in goal caused trouble for Inglis and Ryan Hall got a finger to the ball as it was on the ground.
It looked like it was going to be awarded until the video referee denied England a late smash and grab and with only a set left to play Australia saw out a 16-12 victory to keep their Four Nations hopes alive.