Has there ever been a more dramatic ending to an international game than the one we witnessed at Wembley? And has there ever been a more heartbreaking defeat for an England team?
They say ‘if’ is a big word and that was certainly the case on Saturday; Ryan Hall’s intercept, Ben Westwood’s drive for the line. If only it was England facing Australia in the World Cup Final on Saturday.
So what can we take out of the disappointment that left most English Rugby League supporters, and a few million people whose interest in the game has been roused by the 2013 World Cup, stunned in disbelief?
Significantly, it was one of the finest games seen for a long, long time. High quality, skilful and explosive, it had everything that makes up the sport of Rugby League, even before the drama unfolded in the last 30 seconds.
The game was seen by a TV audience far greater than what has become the norm. If the Rugby Football League has got its legacy in place as it says it has, the spin-offs for the game should be very healthy.
And the England players and staff produced a performance that restored the reputation of the national side. It was a display that raised England back to the top table of international Rugby League, and head coach Steve McNamara’s work since he took up the job in 2010 bore visible fruit, even if his team couldn’t quite get the result. With future World Cups in mind, as well as Four Nations, it would be a pity if the system McNamara has created is allowed to crumble.
Which brings us to Saturday, when New Zealand and Australia are likely to serve up another feast. Let’s put aside our disappointment and enjoy a game between two expertly marshalled teams consisting of some of the greatest sportsmen on the planet.
We hope to see you there on Saturday.
League Express Editorial, Mon 25th Nov 2013