England’s World Cup campaign got under way this morning with an 18-4 defeat to Australia in Melbourne.
Warrington’s Ben Currie was a late replacement for interchange prop Alex Walmsley who missed out due to a virus.
England’s only points of the game came through Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary with Matt Gillett, Billy Slater and Josh Dugan crossing for Australia aided by the boot of Cameron Smith.
Sam Burgess also limped from the field at the end of the first half and didn’t return, with Wayne Bennett confirming he has suspected medial ligament and could be out for three to four weeks.
England got off to a flying start opening the scoring inside the first five minutes after Jermaine McGillvary went over, assisted by Gareth Widdop.
McGillvary found himself in the right place at the right time at the opposite end of the field just a few minutes later as he collected a loose Cooper Cronk pass when Australia looked destined to score on the back of a Michael Morgan break.
England’s defence stood up well to some relentless Aussie pressure in the opening quarter but could only hold out for so long and Australian second-row Matt Gillett levelled the score just after the twenty minute mark. Cameron Smith’s successful conversion nudged Australia ahead 6-4.
Billy Slater extended Australia’s lead just before the half hour mark on the back of a penalty given away by England deep inside their own half. The Green & Gold opted to run the ball and a Matt Gillett offload put Slater in for Australia’s second try on England’s left edge.
England then suffered a blow when they lost key man Burgess after twisting his knee in a tackle. Despite trying to carry on he left the field and didn’t return.
After a promising start, England headed into the sheds 10-4 down and had their solid goal-line defence to thank for it only being a one try deficit.
England started the second half well and some attacking last tackle plays saw McGillvary cause problems down Australia’s left but England couldn’t quite find their way over the Aussie try line.
It took until the 70th minute for the Aussies to seriously threaten in the second half when Michael Morgan went close only be turned down by the video referee.
With time running out, England went close themselves shortly after when Ryan Hall was bundled into touch with the line at his mercy.
It wasn’t until the 75th minute of the game until we saw the first points of the second half when a Cameron Smith penalty extended the Aussie lead to 8 points, after a dubious ball steal call against Elliot Whitehead.
With only a few minutes remaining, and England chasing the game, a desperate Gareth Widdop kick bounced cruelly into the hands of Josh Dugan who raced 80 metres to clinch the game for Australia.
Cameron Smith’s conversion completed the scoring, making the final score 18-4.
1. Jonny Lomax
2. Jermaine McGillvary
3. Kallum Watkins
4. John Bateman
5. Ryan Hall
6. Gareth Widdop
7. Luke Gale
8. Chris Hill
9. Josh Hodgson
10. James Graham
11. Sam Burgess
13. Sean O’Loughlin (c)
Interchange: Chris Heighington, Tom Burgess, James Roby, Ben Currie
1. Billy Slater
2. Dane Gagai
3. Will Chambers
4. Josh Dugan
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Michael Morgan
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Aaron Woods
9. Cameron Smith (c)
10. David Klemmer
11. Boyd Cordner
12. Matt Gillett
13. Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: Wade Graham, Jordan McLean, Josh McGuire, Tyson Frizell
PHOTO CREDIT: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/Photosport.nz