venue: Leigh Sports Village, Leigh
12th June 2010
Full Match Report
GILLETTE FUSION TEST MATCH
Half-back Sam Tomkins led England's 11-try spree in the Gillette Fusion international with a record-equalling four touchdowns as a patched-up France were hopelessly outclassed 60-6 at Leigh Sports Village. The 21-year-old man of the match scored all his tries before half-time, when England led 34-6, and the only surprise was that he failed to go on to break the record in the second half.
Tomkins, who scored a hat-trick on his debut against Wales in Bridgend last year, was among a host of impressive performers in Steve McNamara's first match as national coach as England registered an 11th successive win over the French going back to 1981. Another hero was full-back Gareth Widdop, who made his debut after just two senior appearances for Melbourne Storm but instantly looked a class act while Warrington Wolves centre Chris Bridge confirmed his place on the end-of-season Four Nations trip to Australia and New Zealand with an immaculate display.
McNamara's decision to fly three players over from Australia for a mid-season fixture was clearly vindicated as they ruthlessly exposed the lack of adequate strength in depth in French rugby. Coach Bobbie Goulding was able to call on 13 players from Catalans Dragons but five of them had negligible Engage Super League experience and he was deprived of the services of seven of the club's regulars because of injury.
By half-time, it seemed their woeful defensive efforts may have just about killed off this annual mid-season fixture, with former England coach Tony Smith among those pushing for a game against a team of Super League-based overseas stars. There were signs of some French resistance after the break but the sin-binning of full-back Constant Villegas had the effect of re-opening the floodgates as England finished with four tries in the last 12 minutes.
Most eyes were on the 21-year-old Halifax-born Widdop, who emigrated with his family five years ago but jumped at the chance to play for his country, and he did not disappoint, scoring the game's first try after two minutes following a brilliant one-handed pass by Sam Burgess to Chris Bridge. There was a hint of Billy Slater about the way Widdop then created the space and provided immaculately-timed passes for the next two tries by winger Tom Briscoe and Sam Tomkins.
Another debutant, Wigan Warriors second rower Joel Tomkins, then provided the tryscoring passes that enabled his little brother to complete his hat-trick five minutes before the break. The Tomkins became the first brothers to represent their country since Paul and David Hulme played for Great Britain against New Zealand in 1989 and it did not take them long to produce their club form.
The scrum-half became the sixth England player to score four tries in a match when he successfully pursued Widdop's kick over the French defence to regather to touch down three minutes before the interval.The French were more spirited in defence in the third quarter and it took England until the 56th minute to add to their tally. A superb offload from Adrian Morley got Sam Tomkins into space and he unselfishly sent Castleford Tigers centre Michael Shenton over.
Any hope the French had of keeping the score respectable disappeared when full-back Villegas was sin-binned for a trip on Bridge and England scored four tries while the visitors were down to 12 men.
Second rower Gareth Ellis forced his way over for two of them, Bridge gained reward for his efforts when he was sent clear by his Warrington team-mate Ben Westwood and Shenton took Kevin Brown's pass to score his second.
Gareth Widdop, Tom Briscoe, Chris Bridge, Michael Shenton, Ryan Hall, Kevin Brown, Sam Tomkins, James Graham, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Gareth Ellis, Sam Burgess, Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: James Roby, Adrian Morley, Ben Westwood, Joel Tomkins
Constant Villegas, Nicolas Piquemal, Cyrille Gossard, Sebastien Raguin, Frederic Vaccari, Tony Gigot, Nicolas Munoz, David Ferriol, Gregory Mounis, Remi Casty, Olivier Elima, Jamal Fakir, Andrew Bentley. Subs: William Barthau, Mathieu Griffi, Michael Simon, Julien Touxagas