England got their first win of the 2017 World Cup by overcoming a plucky Lebanon side in wet conditions at Sydney Football Stadium.
It was a scratchy performance from England, with tries from Kallum Watkins, Jermaine McGillvary, Ryan Hall, Ben Currie and Tom Burgess enough to secure the victory.
English supporters may have been worried after the first quarter when Nick Kassis went over to briefly level the scores, but they would be unable to break through the England defence again until the final few minutes when the game was over.
Wayne Bennett made two late changes to the England starting 17 with Stefan Rathford replacing Jonny Lomax at full-back and George Williams taking James Roby’s place on the bench.
After numerous sets on the Lebanese line, England opened the scoring in the ninth minute as Widdop and Ratchford linked up to put Watkins over in the corner.
Despite creating numerous chances, England’s execution was poor and they were punished after Lebanon were piggybacked up the field via a penalty.
Cedars captain Robbie Farah put a kick through, it was fumbled by Widdop and Kassis pounced to slam the ball down and level the game after 20 minutes.
Coach Bennett got the response he wanted though as Watkins made a break on the right edge and handed on to McGillvary, who stepped inside and went under the posts.
England were over again moments later as this time they went down the left edge and John Bateman put Hall over, with the Rhinos winger just keeping hold of the ball before grounding with his torso.
Now on a roll, Josh Hodgson showed why he is one of the world’s best hookers with great vision to run from dummy half, suck in the defender and put Currie through a big gap to score.
Widdop kicked his third conversion to put England 22-6 ahead at half-time.
Much like the first half, Lebanon stood up to England in the early stages after the restart but England got the scoreboard ticking over again 15 minutes in and it was a superb try.
Despite all of England’s creative backs, it was two forwards who linked up as James Graham put Burgess through a gap with a lovely pass, and the big front-rower produced a left-foot step to fool the full-back and score under the sticks.
Many would have expected the flood gates to open from here but that didn’t happen and Brad Fittler’s side held out England before scoring the final try.
After building pressure with a number of sets, Jason Wehbe took advantage of some hesitant defence and was able to ground the ball under pressure.
The conversion was missed and despite Widdop adding a late drop-goal, the final score of 29-10 has left many people questioning England’s World Cup chances.
England: Ratchford, McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Widdop, Gale, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Currie, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Interchange: Walmsley, Heighington, Burgess, Williams.
Lebanon: Abou-Sleiman, Robinson, Maarbani, Doueihi, Miski, Moses, Farah, Mannah, Twal, Ellaz, Kassis, Mamary, Clark. Interchange: Lichaa, Moujali, Wehbe, Sukkar.
Referee: Ben Thaler (England)