Spirited England impress despite defeat to Australia

England’s quest to secure World Cup glory started with defeat against defending world champions Australia.

An 18-4 defeat to Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos signalled a 12th straight defeat against the Green and Gold, but the performance of Wayne Bennett’s side provided more positives than negatives in England’s attempts to secure glory Down Under.

Although the first-half provided another reminder of England’s shortcomings at the elite level, the second period saw England improve dramatically and outplay the world champions in Melbourne.

But tries through Matt Gillett, Billy Slater and Josh Dugan ultimately saw Mal Meninga’s side come out on top in the first game of the competition.

Yet it was England who went ahead through Jermaine McGillvary, the Huddersfield winger who produced an outstanding display for the travelling side.

But England’s efficiency with their kicking and completion faltered, and although England were resolute on their line for large parts, quick tries through Gillett and Slater gave the home nation a 10-4 lead at the break.

But England came out more positive and adventurous with the ball in the second-half, with McGillvary and Hall both going close.

However, Australia weathered the storm and edged two scores ahead when Cameron Smith converted a penalty, before Dugan scored a breakaway try to extend the gap between the two teams.

The bigger concern for England in the aftermath of the defeat was a knee injury picked up by Sam Burgess, who didn’t return in the second-half after limping off in the latter stages of the opening period.

A full, two-page report with analysis and reaction will be available in League Express on Monday.

England: Lomax, McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Widdop, Gale; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, S. Burgess, O’Loughlin (c) Subs: Currie, Heighington, T. Burgess, Roby

Tries: McGillvary

Australia: Slater; Gagai, Chambers, Dugan, Holmes; Morgan, Cronk; Woods, Smith (c), Klemmer, Cordner, Gillett, Trbojevic. Subs: Graham, McLean, McGuire, Frizell

Tries: Gillett, Slater, Dugan

Goals: Smith (3)