Shaun Wane’s England have brushed off the cobwebs and defeated Tonga in their first international match since April 29th, with a 22-18 win over Kristian Woolf’s side but it came during a game of two halves.
The Tongans highlighted their elite level during the first half in which they kept England honest, the teams heading into the break at 12-12, a huge change from the last time Wane’s side played in which they hammered France 64-0.
Obviously Tonga posed a far bigger threat but it was one that England found themselves equal to and then able to overcome eventually, running out 22-18 winners, courtesy of a brilliant second-half performance.
Pundit Jon Wilkin, speaking on the BBC, explained how Wane’s men switched it up from ‘Super League’ to ‘international’ standard after the break, with that change up ultimately helping them earn the win and 1-0 lead in this three test series.
“Jamie Peacock nailed it at half time,” Wilkin explained. “He said that England needed to put a spell together where they were error-free and their discipline was tight. That was exactly what they did in the second half.
“It wasn’t flashy, but by contrast England in the first half were playing Super League. They were playing domestic level rugby, but in the second half they played a test match standard of rugby. It was clean and it was tidy.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Wilkin’s co-pundit Peacock, who even labelled the second-half performance as ‘outstanding’.
“I think Shaun Wane will be far happier with the second half than the first half. It was exactly how England needed to play if they want to become dominant at the international level. Gritty, don’t make mistakes, absolutely outstanding.”
Having gone in to half time with the scores level at 12-12 England presented a far sterner test for Tonga in the second half, controlling the game through territory and tough defence.
It was the brilliant captain Welsby that broke the deadlock as he threw a pass out wide to the left wing, eliminating three Tongan defenders, and allowing fellow Man of Steel nominee Tom Johnstone to score easily in the corner.
Johnstone added his second later on when he capitalised on a Tongan handling error, before an acrobatic score in the corner from Tolutau Koula made the final two minutes interesting.
England take their 1-0 series lead to Huddersfield where they’ll square off with Tonga on Saturday.