England failed to capitalise on a promising start to the match when crashing out of the Four Nations at the hands of Australia at Wembley on Sunday. The team just needed to avoid defeat to book their place in what would be a rematch against the Kangaroos at Anfield this weekend, but faltered in the second half to bow out with a 36-18 loss. During a low scoring first half-hour, things were looking promising for England, with a Jermaine McGillvary try along with the first of three goals from Gareth Widdop to give them a 6-2 advantage. England seemed to falter at the back from this point onwards, however, and some messy defending helped Australia to weave their way to a 6-10 lead at the break.
From there it seemed to be one-way traffic, with tries for Inglis, Scott, Gillett and Holmes as well as a fantastic finish from Josh Dugan. With the clinical boot of Johnathon Thurston kicking the extra after four of the six Australia tries in addition to two goal kicks. England just looked to lack a certain intelligence on the pitch, in particular during that second half, and despite Widdop and Ryan Hall both going over during an impressive ten minute period for the home side, they could ultimately find no answer and lost out by a scoreline that perhaps didn’t quite reflect their decent efforts. The game was high quality test match rugby league for the most part, and the simple fact of the matter was that England were outplayed.
Following a scare against Scotland last Friday in a game which eventually ended in a draw, Australia will now play New Zealand in Liverpool on Sunday in what is a mouth-watering prospect of an all-Oceanic final where the top two ranked league nations in the world will take each other on in what promises to be a top class game. Its outcome will surely all depend whether Australia can carry over some of that second half form from last weekend, while they’ll also be hoping that New Zealand will be looking as vulnerable as they were when trailing the Scots (who as the rotating ‘fourth nation’ in the year’s tournament were considered heavy underdogs) with just ten minutes to go in their final group stage game.
As for England, they shouldn’t be too disheartened by their performance on Sunday, and the calls for Wayne Bennett to be dismissed are arguably premature; they came up against probably the toughest rugby league side in the world in this high-pressure game, and based on the performance alone, they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves.
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