England will face Tonga in Auckland next week for a place in the World Cup final after they proved too strong for Papua New Guinea in an error-strewn game in Melbourne.
The final score of 36-6 makes for good reading, however England made a catalogue of mistakes and benefitted from PNG been far from their best in red-hot conditions.
Jermaine McGillvary was again the stand-out player on the pitch for Wayne Bennett’s side, breaking through the defensive line almost every time he got the ball.
The Huddersfield winger also scored two and assisted two tries in the victory, while his centre Kallum Watkins also grabbed a brace at AAMI Park.
It was a tight first 10 minutes with PNG staying competitive but there always looked to be space on the edges for England and they took the lead when Sean O’Loughlin, Gareth Widdop and Kallum Watkins linked up to put McGillvary over out wide.
Five minutes later and Bennett’s men were over again as the same players linked up, with the addition of Kevin Brown, as Watkins’ superb flick pass put McGillvary in for his second.
Widdop was unable to land either of the conversions but England, who were guilty of making a number of errors in the first quarter, still held an 8-0 lead.
It was a far from a perfect first half but England were making more yards and forcing mistakes from the Kumuls and six minutes before the break Alex Walmsley powered over for his first international try.
Widdop’s conversion made it 14-0 and they survived a scare before half-time as PNG had a try disallowed for a push on the England full-back.
After the restart the game continued to frustrate with both teams making errors, however England added to their lead in the 56th minute as James Roby’s offload allowed Widdop to kick through for Ben Currie to score.
PNG had struggled to cause England problems but when they finally got their attack flowing, they scored, as Willie Minoga produced a superb offload out wide for Castleford’s new signing Garry Lo to touch down in the corner.
Rhyse Martin converted from the touchline as the Kumuls reduced the deficit to 16, with England leading 20-6 on the hour mark.
As the game approached the final 10 minutes, man of the match McGillvary broke the line before finding Wakins, who raced 40 metres to score.
In a whirlwind three minutes, PNG had another try ruled out for obstruction and England went up the other end for another four-pointer, McGillvary again assisted it as he caught and offloaded Josh Hodgson’s kick for Watkins’ second try.
And there was still time for one more score as Widdop stood up the defence to provide Ryan Hall with the space he craves, making no mistake to ground the ball with one hand.
Widdop added the conversion from the touchline to make the final score 36-6 in what was a comfortable, yet frustrating night for England who must improve against Tonga next week if they want to make the final.
England: Widdop, McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Brown, Gale, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, S Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Interchange: Walmsley, T Burgess, Currie, Roby.
PNG: Mead, Olam, Ottio, Macdonald, Lo, A Boas, W Boas, Meninga, Segeyaro, Page, Martin, Minoga, Aiton. Interchange: Baptiste, Amean, Albert, Griffin.