England coach Wayne Bennett was delighted with his team’s work-out as they warmed up for the World Cup with a 74-12 rout of a Combined Affiliated States team in Perth.
Bennett used all but one of his 24-man squad members for a game played in four quarters at the nib Stadium to combat the 24-degree heat and watched them run in 13 tries against their part-time opponents to flex their muscles ahead of their opening game against Australia in Melbourne next Friday.
“It was good,” Bennett said. “I’m really pleased with it. It was nice to see them enjoy themselves.
“It was a chance to work on combinations and get a bit of contact without being silly. We didn’t extend ourselves too much. The game was played in a really good spirit, the other side tried pretty hard so it was good for the game.
“At this stage, we just needed a run to get a bit of match fitness. We know how real it will be next week so it’s down to Melbourne and it all starts then.”
Scrum-half Luke Gale, wingers Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary and prop Tom Burgess all scored two tries apiece, with the others coming from Elliott Whitehead, George Williams, Kevin Brown, Kallum Watkins and James Roby.
It was a chance to work on combinations and get a bit of contact without being silly. We didn’t extend ourselves too much.England coach, Wayne Bennett
Bennett showed his hand ahead of the Kangaroos game by starting the match with specialist second rowers John Bateman and Ben Currie in the centre spots and Sam Burgess in the second row of the pack to accommodate both Chris Hill and James Graham up front.
With skipper Sean O’Loughlin packing down at loose forward, England’s physical dominance was evident from the start and, after leading 34-6 at half-time, the introduction of Alex Walmsley and Scott Taylor from the bench enabled them to stay on the front foot throughout the game, with Roby making a big impression as replacement hooker.
However, Bennett says Friday’s starting 13 will not necessarily be the one that takes to the field at the Rectangular Stadium, saying: “There are a couple of other players there pushing to get in.”
England made the perfect start when Castleford Tigers’ Gale pounced on a handling error inside the first set of the match to score the first of his two tries and the impressive Widdop carved open the shaky States defence to send second rower Whitehead over for the second only three minutes later. Leeds Rhinos left winger Hall, who is averaging a try a game so far in his 32-Test career, produced a trademark acrobatic finish to extend the lead and right winger McGillvary also got in on the act before the end of the first quarter, when the tourists led 22-0.
England were never really stretched and only conceded a try when centre Ben Taylor swooped on a loose pass to romp 80 metres for an interception score, which he converted.
Hall and Gale doubled their try tally before half-time and McGillvary added his second two minutes into the second half as England cut loose with three tries in a seven-minute spell.
George Williams started and finished one glorious move and Roby went over from dummy half before Tom Burgess took centre stage, charging over for two tries as England finished strongly.
Jordan Jacob grabbed a consolation try for the States team but Kevin Brown pounced on a defensive error to touch down at the other end and Widdop once more showed his class to get Watkins over.
Bennett took the opportunity to try out a few half-back permutations, with Widdop switching between stand-off and full-back while he, Gale and Stefan Ratchford demonstrated that goalkicking will not be a problem as they converted 11 of the tries between them.
The trio of marksman rotated throughout the four quarters and Bennett says they will decide between them who takes on the job in Melbourne.
“They were doing their own things and they were all very good,” he said. “It was a pretty impressive display of goalkicking. I’ll let them make the final decision.”
Bennett confirmed there were no injury concerns from Friday’s friendly and says St Helens full-back Jonny Lomax, the only player not to get game time, will be in contention for the World Cup opener.
“He had a hamstring problem in the last game of the season,” he said “I’m pretty confident he’ll be right for next weekend.”