Four Nations: England 38 Scotland 12 - Unconvincing England overcome scare to see off domestic rivals

England's Luke Gale celebrates scoring his sides sixth try of the game (Photo: PA)

England's Luke Gale celebrates scoring his sides sixth try of the game (Photo: PA)

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IT WAS far from convincing and it is hard to imagine too many newcomers from Coventry rushing back to watch them again.

Nonetheless, England overcame a first half scare tonight to post the win that keeps alive their hopes of a place in the Ladbrokes Four Nations final.

Wayne Bennett’s side will have to play far better against Australia, though, next Sunday in their last qualifier than they did here versus a determined and, at times, impressive Scotland side.

The minnows - 33/1 to win this first rugby league Test meeting between the nations - led 8-0 just short of the half-hour having caused their abject rivals no end of problems.

Scotland took the lead inside just six minutes through North Queensland centre Kane Linnett and then doubled it after a brilliant finish from Matty Russell in the 24th to raise hopes of a massive shock.

Danny Brough missed both touchline conversion attempts but that was the only time he put a foot wrong in the first period as the Dewsbury-born Bravehearts captain - infamously rejected twice by England - kicked his opponents to death and toyed with them at every opportunity.

England's Luke Gale attempts a conversion during the Four Nations match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. (Pic PA)

England's Luke Gale attempts a conversion during the Four Nations match at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. (Pic PA)

However, Steve McCormack’s ‘underdogs could not last the pace and, conceding 12 points when Brough was sin-binned midway through the second period, it was no surprise England eventually safely negotiated their first win of the competition.

Bennett made four changes with Hull FC prop Scott Taylor coming in for the injured James Graham, Wigan’s Liam Farrell replacing club colleague John Bateman, Mark Percival taking Dan Sarginson’s centre spot and George Williams recalled for Gareth Widdop at No6.

Williams won the man-of-the-match although half-back parnter Luke Gale, from Castleford Tigers, must have pushed him close.

It will be interesting to see if Widdop is recalled or not for the game against the Kangaroos at London Stadium next weekend when England must win if they are to progress to the Anfield final.

George Williams, wearing No.6, created a try for Mark Percival

George Williams, wearing No.6, created a try for Mark Percival

It was Huddersfield Giants stand-off Brough, thouugh, who initially pulled all the strings here.

He started the move that saw Lachlan Coote put Linnett over early on and attacked England’s vulnerable right side again, too, with a raking pass that saw Warrington Wolves winger Russell somehow defy Jermaine McGillvary’s tackle and the touchline to score.

The hosts had been abject, making soft handling errors and looking flat-footed, but they managed enough cohesion to respond soon after when Gale ushered Elliott Whitehead over with a short pass to ease growing tensions in the England fans at the Ricoh Arena.

Gale’s dinked short grubber in the 36th minute profitted his former Bradford Bulls team-mate with a second and, with the Castleford scrum-half improving both, they gleaned a 12-8 interval lead they scarcely deserved.

However, once a crabbing Williams teased Scotland before setting up Percival early in the second period, England managed to take control although they never truly looked convincing.

Williams did his chances of retaining a spot next week no harm by collecting a difficult pass and swiftly angling a grubber for Ryan Hall, the Leeds Rhinos winger, who took his international record to 30 tries in 30 Tests.

When Brough was yellow-carded for holding down Jonny Lomax, they added another two tries via Huddersfield’s McGillvary - that’s three in three games this autumn for the winger - and Gale, who was rewarded for his effort with a first international try when supporting Sam Burgess’ break.

But Danny Addy nearly twisted over for the visitors and, when Brough returned to the field, they did add their third try, Bradford second-row powering over from close range.

However, Brough once more could not convert and it was England who finished the scoring, showing their potential need for points later in the competition by ignoring a simple penalty goal after the final hooter to push for a try.

They were rewarded when Farrell latched onto another grubber from his Wigan colleague Williams and Gale maintained his 100 per cent record, slotting his seventh goal.

England: Lomax; McGillvary, Watkins, Percival, Hall; Williams, Gale; Taylor, Hodgson, Hill, Whitehead, Farrell, S Burgess. Substitutes: Clark, T Burgess, G Burgess, Cooper.

Scotland: Coote; Tierney, Aitken, Linnett, Russell; Brough, Addy; Walker, Hood, Douglas, Hellewell, Ferguson, Kavanagh. Substitutes: Cassel, Mariano, C Phillips, Brooks.

Referee: Gerard Sutton (Australia)

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