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Harry Smith criticised for ‘shocking’ goal kicking in England win over France

Harry Smith England Rugby League

England recovered from a slow start to overcome a competitive French side who, ultimately, lacked the squad depth to maintain their early intensity in the mid-season international at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. England won the game 40-8.

France looked set to give England a fright in the first 20 minutes, thanks to an early try from Fouad Yaha and a penalty goal from Arthur Mourgue, which gave them an early 8-0 lead. But two good kicks from hand from Harry Smith helped to gain a foothold in the territorial battle and they were able to win the arm wrestle against a withering French pack.

Smith’s kicking game had a Jekyll and Hyde feel to it as he continued to wrestle with his kicking from the tee. In general play, Smith’s kicking was brilliant as he showcased his pinpoint at both close range and with longer, positional kicks. He was instrumental in several England tries, most notably his grubber kick-through for Matty Nicholson to score.

However, his goal-kicking remains patchy, at best. Smith kicked just four from eight attempts, keeping France in the game longer than they should have been. However, Smith then kicked a brilliant goal from the touchline with the last action of the game, when the pressure was off.

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Harry Smith criticised for goal-kicking in England victory


Credit: Imago Images

Speaking on the Super League+ coverage of the game, pundit, Paul Cooke, was highly critical of Smith’s goal-kicking. Cooke described the Wigan Warriors man’s performance from the kicking tee as a “shocker” and claimed England would have been out of sight if he had been more accurate with the boot. Cooke said:

“He’s having a shocker with the boot.

“Listen there is no doubt he is a quality goal kicker. But with those goals, England would be out of sight.

“It’s a potshot from him sometimes isn’t it? We have said this quite a lot – genuine goal-kickers don’t miss, or at least they don’t miss those kinds of opportunities.

“He’s got a quality and good kick on him, but if he misses his first couple or he misses two or three of the first four like he has done, then I think it’s difficult for him.”

Smith faces competition from the tee at club level from team-mate, Adam Keighran, who is an accomplished goal-kicker. Smith has kicked 33 goals in Super League this season, compared with Keighran’s 24. However, Smith has missed 11 attempts at goal this season, compared with Keighran’s two.

Smith has previously discussed how he is working hard to improve his kicking from the tee. England will be desperate for that to bear fruit, as missed conversions could prove crucial in tighter games against the stronger opposition.

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