In a game which was dogged with apathy from some clubs, and degraded by player withdrawals, England took to the field to take on an International All-Stars side as they built up for their World Cup Campaign at the end of the current domestic season.
Shaun Wane got to pick the cream of the available fit players but sprang several surprises, mostly through omission, while plenty of withdrawals for All-Stars coach Ellery Hanley left him with a number of selection headaches, but he was still able to select a strong looking side who on paper, who should have given the English a good run for their money.
England were favourites with the bookies, but Wane would remember that his side were beaten by 26-24 in his first game in charge at this time last year.
It was the All Stars who had the lion share of the early pressure as England defended with gusto, but England drew first blood when Jake Wardle crashed over the line after bouncing off two tacklers on taking a Sam Tomkins pass to score on ten minutes. Tomkins added the conversion, and it was just the start that Wane was looking for.
As the half wore on it was increasingly clear that there was very little between the two sides. But just before the half hour, a brilliant break from John Bateman saw him accelerate forty metres downfield, the Wigan man then finding George Williams in support to take the pass and motor in from thirty metres. Tomkins added the extras for a 12-0 lead for England, the All Stars wondering how the game was slipping from them.
England kept the All Stars scoreless in the first half, Ellery Hanley had some work to do in the dressing room at the break.
John Bateman extended the England lead on forty-three as he muscled over the line and grounded above his head under the tackle of Mahe Fonua. Referee Smith consulted the video referee who agreed with his decision to award the try, Bateman having one hand on the ball as it hit the turf. Tomkins converted for 18-0.
With eighteen minutes remaining try scoring machine Ken Sio picked a Kruise Leeming pass off his toes and summersaulted over in the left corner for the All Stars first try of the game. Rhyse Martin was unable to add the touchline conversion, the All Stars still three converted tries adrift with seventeen minutes remaining.
Kelepi Tanginoa had a try ruled out with two minutes remaining for a double movement after a great tackle from Tommy Makinson, England defending all the way to the final hooter.
Wane will have learnt a few things from this performance. Welsby, Williams, and Hall all impressed, and Bateman seemed to have a hand in most moves. How close this side will be to the one which takes the field in the opening World Cup against Samoa on the 15th October is anyone’s guess, but the backbone certainly seems to be there under Wane´s coaching.
England: Tomkins (3G), Makinson, Watkins, Wardle (T), Hall, Welsby, Williams (T), Walmsley, McIlorum Cooper, Farrell, McMeeken, Bateman (T). Subs: McShane, Batchelor, Lees, Oledzki.
All-Stars: Mata´utia, Sio (T), Martin, Kenny-Dowall, Fonua, Miller, Croft, Sao, Clark, Tetevano, Edwards, Tanginoa, Prior. Subs: Leeming, Lovodua, Satae, Fifita.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0 : HT : 16-0, 18-0, 18-4 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: England.
Referee: Jack Smith.