Tonga fell to a 22-18 defeat at the hands of England yesterday with Kristian Woolf’s return to St Helens not going as well as he’d have hoped.
Woolf was returning to the stadium where he had brought Super League success and started one of Super League’s notable dynasties, however it wasn’t to be a happy return as his Tongan side were ground down in the second half.
The scores were level after the first forty with Toby King’s opener cancelled out before Tonga actually went ahead, not before a moment of Mikey Lewis magic helped bring the scores back together.
At 12-12 it was all to play for in the second half but England played more disciplined and were able to capitalise on a tiring Tonga side to earn their victory, with two Tom Johnstone tries breaking the game open.
In the post match Woolf had plenty to say about the state of the saturated St Helens pitch, however he was also concerned with the unfair and imbalanced rucks.
Explaining the defeat to the media, he stated: “We’ll learn a lot and we’ll be a hell of a lot better next week and you got to remember a lot of these guys haven’t played footy for six or seven weeks.
“You can see at different times how that affected them, the heavy track affected them and the slow ruck affected them and we’re going to get better with all that.”
In regards to the slow ruck Woolf brought statistic to back up his point, however he made sure to preface any comments with the fact that England deserved to win.
“Yeah look, the first point I want to make there is that England deserve to win.
“Shaun Wane did a great job, they were well prepared, they played really well. Any of the tries that were scored against us had nothing to do with the ruck, it was things that we can clean up.
“I don’t want to come across like I’m whinging there at all. I also want to say I think Liam Moore is the best referee in the country. I’ve said that for a number of years and he’s a very good and very fair referee.
“The ruck was ridiculous tonight and it’s got to be fair in there as well. England are playing the ball at 3.25 seconds, we’re playing at a 4.35 seconds in the second half, that’s not a fair ruck.
“Guys being able to come in when they’re not involved in the tackle and flop in late, I get that we want to let things go a little bit in the test match, I do, and we all want to see that, but it’s got to be fair on the ruck and we’ve got to be allowed to play footy and that’s what people turn up to watch.”
Whether the ruck will be a point of focus for the referees next week is yet to be seen but it’s interesting to note Woolf’s criticism of how it was officiated.