And so we reach the knockout stages of the Rugby League World Cup, the first 2 games being a battle between realistically the 2 favourites and 2 of the surprise packages. New Zealand took on The Scotland Bravehearts and Australia The USA Tomahawks; in spite of both underdogs giving us a lot to shout about in the pool stages their World Cup was to go no further as the Kiwis beat the Bravehearts 40 to 4 and Australia it has to be said whooped (a technical RL term) the Tomahawks 60 to a big fat zero. Scotland batted above their weight in the tournament and in common with rugby union I think we’ll hear a lot more of the Tomahawks! Well done to both squads!
I spent my Saturday afternoon at Twickenham watching that other England playing the All Blacks; and in spite of a loss had a cracking time! My journey home found me on the train with 3 guys from Leigh near Wigan the middle of rugby league land; what chance! They had me in fits of laughter all the way to Waterloo, confirming one of the reasons I have such a passion for the Northern brand of rugby; the wonderful people who watch it! Typically I missed a train so am now watching the England RL game on a delay – internet off!!! So I get no Twitter banter! One benefit from this is I can stop the game to write this report as I go along, perfect!
England find themselves playing their quarter final against France at the DW Stadium, home to the mighty Wigan Warriors; therefore playing in front of a wholly biased crowd! Never a bad thing when playing knock out rugby! I’m sure the crowd will have has more than a few Wigan fans as they turned out to watch several of their players including what will be a last appearance for a while for Sam Tomkins.
Now France come into this game having not beaten England since 1981 and on the back of a mere one win; having beaten Papua New Guinea and in fact pretty much been beaten up by Samoa during the week. They suffered an early blow in losing their first choice dummy half Kane Bentley ; they did however take first blood with Vincent Duport scoring a try with 3 men on his back. He appeared to be badly injured and yet a bit of magic sponge according to. Brian Noble commentating and he jumped up right as rain! This is how we know we aren’t watching Wendyball!! The try was converted by the always accurate Thomas Bosc to give the French a lead of 6 points! Not quite the opening that was in the script!
England were gifted the ball by an odd offload close to the French line and after a scrum after the ball was knocked on Sam Tomkins, he of the magic legs and Superleague’s top try scorer Josh Charnley combined for a great wingers score. (Sir) Kevin Sinfield converted the try to even the scores at 6 a piece. I have to confess here that I did the clapping in an empty room thing again, just can’t help myself! And then again when Sam Tomkins made one of his jinking (another RL word) through the midfield, the guy is scarily good in a bit of space and time Down Under can only improve his game!
Some great play by Rangi Chase after he’d very nearly had his head taken off resulted in a pass to Tomkins who threw a huge pass to Ryan Hall on the wing; he rarely misses from the position he got the ball and went over to score. Sinfield from the opposite touch line slotted the ball over the posts extending England’s lead to 12 to France’s 6. At 23 minutes the French play was starting to look a bit ragged and tempers were starting to flare as is often the case when things don’t go a teams’ way; at this point I found myself wondering when the fisticuffs are going to properly kick off, we will see. James Graham very nearly drove the ball over the line after another penalty was awarded to England, but some quality back play involving a pretty amazing pass from Callum Watkins to Josh Charnley saw another try for the winger. And so to the opposite touch line again for Sinfield who this time missed! Tut! England 16 France 6
Thomas Bosc kicked off and the ball was carried up the pitch by the big boys (forwards); this time Leroy Cudjoe combined with Ryan Hall and the story of wingers tries continued! The zig zag kicks saw Sinfield kicking and converting from the left of the pitch; order was most certainly restored with the score at England 22 France 6. The commentators pointed out at this stage that Ryan Hall alone has scored 5 more tries than the whole French team during the Tournament; a fact Italy who scored tries aplenty may well be aggrieved at!
France battered the England line with several repeat sets to no avail; giving a relieving penalty as Charnley was tackled in the air. With the Kiwis as the opponents in the semi finals a good spell of defending was needed in this game. The half time whistle went on an entertaining first half which started in a totally unexpected manner but then went back to form. Poor Sean O’Loughlin was the recipient of Robbie Hunter Paul’s questions at half time along with Thomas Bosc; a pretty big ask after a hard half of rugby league!
France started the 2nd half in a similar way to the first, their attack being thwarted by a knock on. A cheeky bit of play by Olivier Elima had him stealing the ball from Rangi Chase after England were put into a good scoring position after a soft penalty. The next England try was…….. Not scored by a winger!!!! Ryan Hall was instrumental in wining the ball from a Rangi Chase kick, Leroy Cudjoe passing to Sean O’Loughlin who scored. I’m not so sure Brett Ferres didn’t take out 3 French players but hey! The conversion naturally converted by Sinfield took the score to England 28 France 6.
England had another spell of defending, and the commentators tried to suggest the fact that the team had to face some spells of defence might give them an advantage over the Kiwis next week???? I think not! Some scrappy play by both teams with knock ons a plenty gave the French several attacking opportunities; they, however knocked on! At 62 minutes the game for England had gone slightly off the boil, not something they can afford to do against New Zealand! The next 11 minutes produced no points but did see the end of Sam Tomkins after a yellow card for a professional foul; not quite the way he would have wanted to end his career at the DW! Ironically just before he was announced as Man of the Match!
A huge gap for Brett Ferres saw him stroll in for a try at last in the latter stages of the second half at last a simple kick for Kevin Sinfield! The decision was sent to the video ref after a suspected obstruction by the huuuuuge George Burgess; a good feature of this World Cup has been the fact that the reasoning of the man looking at the video can be heard on the TV. With just over 2 minutes left on the clock the score was England 34 France 6, this was to be the final score.
A good defensive display by England if a slightly scrappy offensive effort in spite of the 34 points. The potential lunch up nearly happened with 2 seconds to go, but was averted. France with a mere 3 tries to their name for the tournament must be disappointed overall with their performance; that must also put into doubt the fairness of the qualification route for the quarter finals.
Sunday sees the remaining quarter final between Fiji and Samoa; that should be an absolute battle royal; one I imagine Australia will be watching with some trepidation. That’s another game I’ll be watching on delay as I go off to watch Saracens play Llanelli Scarlets; report for that game to follow! It’s getting confusing these different rugby’s! Put ooh it’s great stuff, I’ll be at Wembley next weekend for the World Cup semi finals, that should be an awesome day!