England bounced back from their shock warm-up defeat at the hands of Italy with a brave effort against Australia in what was a pulsating opening game in this year’s Rugby League World Cup.
England began the game in confident fashion, using their sizeable pack, led by South Sydney’s George Burgess to dominate the early stages.
England took advantage of their strong start by scoring the game’s opening try. A fast passing move to the left hand side of the pitch saw Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall finish strongly in the corner.
The hosts increased their advantage to ten points on 20 minutes. A clever kick from captain Kevin Sinfield caused confusion in the Australia defence and Leroy Cudjoe took advantage to further enhance England’s dominance.
Seven minutes later, Australia centre Greg Inglis did well to beat England full-back Sam Tomkins to a high ball and offloaded acrobatically Johnathan Thurston for the half-back to cross for Australia’s first try.
A precise flat pass from Thurston shortly afterwards allowed Greg Bird to crash over to give Australia a slender two point lead with four minutes remaining of the first half.
As it looked like Australia would head into half time with their slight advantage, Billy Slater exploited some poor organisation in the England defence to break through the line and cross for an impressive solo try – a try which took the scores to 18-10 at the break.
Things got worse for England soon after the restart.
Slater showed his class again to brilliantly keep the ball in play to prevent a 40-20, but Wigan Warriors winger Josh Charnley could not do the same at his end soon after. From the resulting scrum, Australia scored through St. George winger Josh Morris.
Despite these setbacks, England kept themselves in the game through some determined defence.
They defended consecutive sets, before taking advantage of Australian indiscipline, advancing up the field and touching down through George Burgess.
The score was 22-16 with 30 minutes remaining and emotions boiled over when Warrington second-rower Ben Westwood clashed with Andrew Fifita, while Sam Burgess hit Sam Thaiday with a high tackle.
Australia extended their advantage to eight points when Thurston kicked a penalty with 16 minutes left.
The match was finally settled when Darius Boyd touched down in the corner with 10 minutes left, although England refused continued in determined style until the end and added the final score of the game through Charnley, taking the final score to 28-20 to the visitors.