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McNAMARA GLAD FOR EXILES BATTLE : Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:07 pm  
England coach Steve McNamara took the positives after his side slipped to an agonising 16-12 defeat in Friday night's inaugural CarPlan International Origin match against the Exiles.

The Exiles, drawn from the best of the Australian and New Zealand talent plying their grade in Super League, were chosen as England's mid-season opponents after France had repeatedly failed to provide the intense competition needed to prepare them for the Four Nations Series.

And it was the ageing Antipodeans who took the spoils in a full-blooded, defence-dominated encounter in front of a healthy 14,174 crowd at Headingley, thanks to a last-gasp try from Wigan centre George Carmont.

"It was exactly what our international set-up needed," said McNamara, whose side claimed tries in either half from Richie Myler and Joel Tomkins.

"We've had to create some change to make something happen for ourselves at international level.

"The clubs have bought into it, the players have bought into it and we have got a great England squad backed up by the England Knights, and an 18s and a 16s which is now aligned.

"We've taken on a new training facility at Loughborough University, where our players are being exposed to elite sportsmen and have taken on a highly competitive fixture against the Exiles.

"It was a war of attrition out there but we aren't going to win a Four Nations final by 30 or 40 points.

"A lot of players in our competition have been winning games by that margin and probably even more.

"This was exactly the kind of game that we will be involved in at the end of the season.

"We are hugely, hugely disappointed that we didn't get the right result, but we were only a couple of players and a couple of seconds away from doing that.

"It hurts like hell and the players are absolutely gutted but the game was exactly what this country needs."

England trailed for most of the match but looked to have snatched victory 12 minutes from the end when Tomkins seized on an errant pass from Exiles captain Danny Buderus to race from deep inside his own half for a glorious try.

Kevin Sinfield's second conversion put the hosts in front for the first time but they could not withstand a furious late onslaught and, in a tense finale, Carmont struck for the decisive try with just 45 seconds left on the clock.

Although defeated, there was plenty for McNamara to cheer in the performances of Sam Tomkins, Luke Robinson, James Graham and Ben Westwood.

"To single out anybody would be wrong but I was impressed by the spirit of the whole group," said McNamara, who reported no major injury concerns as his players prepare to represent their clubs in this weekend's round of Super League fixtures.

"They have worked extremely hard all week and they understand what we're trying to do with our England programme and they are desperate to achieve international success," he added.

"The Exiles hardly made an error and that's exactly why this fixture was designed.

"Hopefully it will continue to develop grow - and I think it will.

"It will only get bigger and better and be around for a lot of years to come."

The fact that the Exiles took the game so seriously - as evidenced by their jubilant celebrations at the final whistle - provided further encouragement for the future of the fixture.

Exiles coach Brian McClennan said: "It's been a fantastic time in camp with all the boys and we loved the concept of all getting together.

"It's been a reacquaintance of old friendships and making news ones.

"We showed out there that we are all proud of where we come from.

"The players are very passionate about playing well and I thought they did that.

"We felt like we deserved to win the game."

Exiles skipper Buderus also felt the match laid down some solid foundations for the future.

"Rugby league is a hard game," said the Leeds hooker.

"It's about where you come from and it's a matter of pride - hopefully this is the night where this game will kick off.

"The atmosphere and the intensity of this game should hopefully get people coming back in their droves."

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