Australia claimed the first points of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup as they overcame a resolute England performance in Cardiff.
Memories of a poor defeat to Italy in the last warm up match were quickly cast aside as Leeds Rhinos winger Ryan Hall scored the competition’s first try after seven minutes. Sam Tomkins fed Hall who went over in the corner to secure his fourteenth try in sixteen tests, giving England a 4-0 lead, as Kevin Sinfield missed his kick at goal.
England thought they had doubled their lead on fifteen minutes. George Burgess appeared to have wrestled his way through the Australian defence to score the game’s second try; however, the video referee adjudged that he had lost the ball as he attempted to touch down.
England continued to apply good pressure and it was not long before they increased their advantage. Leroy Cudjoe perfectly judged the bounce from a Sinfield kick and was able to gather the ball and cross the line for another four points. A Sinfield conversion increased England’s lead to 10-0.
Australia soon started to come into the game and got their first points on the board in the twenty-seventh minute. Greg Inglis did superbly to beat Sam Tomkins to a high ball and set up Johnathan Thurston for Australia’s first try of the tournament. Thurston then further reduced England’s lead to 10-6 with a successful conversion.
Play became scrappy as the game headed towards half-time and England surrendered their lead as Australia scored two late tries to go into the interval 18-10 up. England conceded a succession of penalties which allowed the Kangaroos to gain territory and Greg Bird broke through the defence to even the score before Thurston put Australia in front with the conversion. Shortly after, Billy Slater was able to evade all attempts to tackle him and he sprinted down the line before going over for a brilliant solo try. Thurston added another two points with another successful kick.
The second half started as the first half had ended and Australia were soon even further ahead. Josh Charnley was unable to prevent a 40-20 and the Kangaroos scored straight from the resulting scrum; as Brett Morris touched down in the corner to make it 22-10 in the forty-fourth minute.
England were not ready to lie down though and made good use of successive penalties to set up a George Burgess try. Sinfield added the conversion to reduce the Australian advantage to 22-16.
Tensions started to rise and Sam Burgess was guilty of a very high tackle on Sam Thaiday. Burgess will find out on Monday if he faces disciplinary action.
Thurston added another two points with a penalty kick to reduce Australia’s lead to eight points, before Darius Boyd put an end to any optimism, making it 28-16.
For England a Josh Charnley try came too late to spark a late fight back and the game ended 28-20.
Despite the defeat, England showed plenty of promise and expectations will be high going into the other group games against Ireland (2nd November) and Fiji (9th November).
Image courtesy of the BBC