LEEDS RHINOS’ Ryan Hall scored four tries as England enjoyed that rare occasion of lifting some silverware last night.
However, everyone knows this triangular autumn international series is not really the sort of accolade they are truly seeking.
That is, of course, the World Cup which kicks off in less than 12 months’ time.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the last time Great Britain were crowned world champions and this improving England side are confident of being able to finally challenge again to end that long wait.
But it is hard to gage from this performance, or anything over the last month; in easing past France 48-4, England took their points total in three games to 172, racking up 30 tries in the process and conceding just four.
Steve McNamara’s side had defeated France 44-6 at Hull KR eight days earlier to reach this final but their opponents, despite the similar scoreline, were a lot more competitive in Salford.
There had been some pre-match anger vented when a match review panel decided Gareth Ellis did not need to be charged for his high tackle on Cyril Stacul in that previous match.
The French opponents seemed to take that out on the England second-row every time he took possession last night although Hull FC’s new acquisition rose above it all and had a typically commanding game.
France, missing Stacul, Gregory Mounis, Eloi Pelissier and Mickael Simon through injuries sustained in that first match, had Catalan prop Jamal Fakir and Sebastien Raguin returning to bolster their pack and, in the manner they put pressure on England’s kickers early on, showed they were far more willing.
However England, who welcomed back Sean O’Loughlin after injury and recalled Castleford Tigers’ Rangi Chase for his first game of the tournament at the expense of Richie Myler, soon found their rhythm.
They opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a well-worked move that saw Chase find an arcing Sam Tomkins around the back to put winger Hall sliding over in the corner for his 150th career touchdown.
Leeds Rhinos’ Kevin Sinfield added the first of his eight conversions but any thoughts France would quickly capitulate were swiftly dispelled.
They cheaply lost possession coming out of their own half on a couple of occasions but generally defended well, certainly showing more passion and intensity than previously.
Jason Baitieri was particularly fiery, the loose forward setting the lead for Les Chanticleers with Super League Dream Team prop Remi Casty similarly forceful.
Admittedly, they did not create much, lively scrum-half William Barthau being their most obvious threat.
Ellis, who was England’s leading player along with the excellent O’Loughlin, was briefly called upon to drag down Barthau after Michael McIlorum had unsuccessfully rushed out of the defensive line.
When France forced a drop out, Josh Charnley was up to the task of bundling winger Mathias Pala into touch.
Chase and Sinfield linked for England’s second try in the 25th minute but it was mostly down to Sam Tomkins’s individual brilliance, the Wigan full-back taking possession before throwing an outrageous dummy, checking inside and weaving over from 10m.
Hall added his second soon after with another simple finish. O’Loughlin showed great dexterity to collect Chase’s challenging pass one-handed while bending low and, almost in the same movement, fired out a brilliant pass for the Leeds winger as England went in 18-0 ahead.
Adrian Morley departed early in the second half after a nasty clash of heads with colleague Ellis but it did not dent England’s hopes of adding to their score.
It was Ellis who made the final pass to send Charnley over in the corner, then Chase floated out another for Hall’s third. In almost identical style to his first – Tomkins jinked through for his second to further extend his record as England’s leading try-scorer.
Hall went in for his fourth in the 64th minute but, again, it was all down to his colleagues’ creativity.
This time it was Chase who gathered Thomas Bosc’s wayward kick on his own line and raced 70m downfield with Tomkins providing the link for Hall to finish.
Ellis was once more to the fore when he charged on to Chris Hill’s fine line pass and then sent Rob Burrow scampering over but it was the French who, deservedly, got the last score, Mathias Pala pouncing after Charnley made a hash of Bathau’s kick.
Charnley had been selected ahead of Hull winger Tom Briscoe but, such is the competitiveness for England’s wing slots, you could see by his reaction – head in hands – that that could cost him in the long run.
A minute’s silence was held beforehand for Joe Egan, the former Wigan and Great Britain hooker – and last surviving member of the famous Indomitable tour of 1946 – who has died aged 93.
England: Tomkins; Charnley, Watkins, Cudjoe, Hall; Sinfield, Chase; Mossop, McIlorum, Hill, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Burrow, Ablett, Hock, Morley.
France: Soubeyras; Sadaoui, Larroyer, Duport, Pala; Bosc, Barthau; Fakir, Bentley, Casty, Elima, Raguin, Baitieri. Substitutes: Bemba, Gigot, Bousquet, Griffi.
Referee: Shane Rehm (New Zealand).