England: A missed opportunity

Comments Tony Smith, the former Warrington Wolves coach, made recently went under some serious fire with the rugby league fan base. And although I don’t fully agree with his statement about the final, as in the score flattering the English side, he made some very good points even though many seems to want to ignore it.

Last week the nation was awaiting it’s first final in 22 years and the only possible way the English side would come out on top was if the Kangaroo’s didn’t show up, or so the press made you believe. Denis Betts, the England assistant, moments before kick off made a statement live on the BBC broadcast; “If we play our best, we win, NO MATTER WHAT Australia do”. I think there were many around the country that will have had to hold in a chuckle to get through the interview. But, was Betts wrong?

Realistically, no he wasn’t. England had built their way through the tournament and really hit top gear for the final. They put all of their hearts on the line and nobody can ever fault the effort, mentality and pure guts to get stuck in and really make it the greatest prize in the world and as much as I want to leave it there, it would be incorrect to do so. England were not good enough on the day to win the world cup and although pride can be taken, a real look as to what happened needs to be under-taken.

Completion rate was just over 70% in a one score game that relied heavily on defence. Cold drops were made on more than one occasion at moments that the game depended on. Kicks on the 2nd tackle, albeit attacking kicks, were a pure waste of opportunity. All in all the attack was nothing short of uninspiring.

As the game wore on, there was a lack of a spark player. No Jamie Shaul, Sam Tomkins, George Williams or even Mark Percival, for whatever reason, was clear. Although Lomax did change the game and create a spark, it seemed to be that little bit late.

There’s a question as to whether the injured men were the key factors breaking up play for the Englishmen up to the semi’s and that is the reason 0 points sat next to England’s name. Sean O’Loughlin and Josh Hodgson have always been heroes not always fully appreciated by the crowd that support them, and the final showed a bit of what was missing.

Some moments in the game could change the reflection of this article completely, for example, Josh Dugan’s ankle tap on Kallum Watkins. That would’ve surely, given the situation, meant that England would use the momentum to go on and win the match. However, you can also argue a disallowed try for Michael Morgan should’ve been allowed on the basis that the attacker doesn’t have to move out the way as long as he’s not making an attempt to impede the defender, which in this case, he isn’t.

There is no real excuse and, at the end of the day, England did not play the best they could, far from it. Although immense pride can be held, England had Australia on the ropes. Australia looked tired and uninspiring despite having an extra week off, before the tournament, then most of the English squad. England didn’t capitalise and that is the disappointment some, if not all, England fans need to face sooner rather than later so they can build to the next world cup.

Australia will likely lose a slight bit of momentum going in to the next major tournament. Looking forward to that Four Nations, the green and gold will likely be without Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Jonathan Thurston and Billy Slater. To lose that many legends in one big swoop could mean a costly blow in terms of the Four Nations title. However, before the next World Cup, it is likely England will lose just as many Legends from their ranks, and with Mitchell Moses’ outstanding performances for Lebanon setting him apart, don’t expect that Australian void to be empty for very long. England need to look for that next step, to give them the best chance possible of breaking the World Cup duck but most importantly, the job needs to be done on the day “NO MATTER WHAT”.