- Tom Burgess (2),
- Tom Johnstone (13),
- Tom Johnstone (18),
- Tom Johnstone (25),
- Richie Myler (31),
- Luke Thompson (33),
- Elliot Whitehead (40),
- Jake Connor (59)
- Theo Fages (63)
- Jake Connor (5/6),
- Mark Percival (1/1)
- William Barthau (1/1)
- James Shaul,
- Tom Johnstone,
- Reece Lyne,
- Mark Percival,
- Jermaine McGillvary,
- Richie Myler,
- Jake Connor,
- James Graham,
- Josh Hodgson,
- Tom Burgess,
- Oliver Holmes,
- Elliot Whitehead,
- George Burgess.
- Subs: Adam Milner,
- Luke Thompson,
- Robbie Mulhern,
- Liam Sutcliffe
- Stanislas Robin,
- Paul Marcon,
- Tony Gigot,
- Bastien Ader,
- Hakim Miloudi,
- Theo Fages,
- William Barthau,
- Lambert Belmas,
- Alrix Da Costa,
- Bastien Canet,
- Benjamin Jullien,
- Mickael Goudemand,
- Jason Baitieri.
- Subs: Anthony Marion,
- Thibaud Margalet,
- Valentin Yesa,
- Bastien Escamilla
Tom Johnstone marked his international debut with a stunning
hat-trick as England put a gallant France team to the sword.
Wakefield Trinity Winger Johnstone, one of eight debutants in Wayne Bennett’s England side, ran in three tries in 12 minutes as part of a stunning first half performance by England that bodes well for their chances in the upcoming three match test-series with New Zealand.
France were able to stem the flow in the second half and made it more of a contest, but the nature of their first half capitulation will worry France Coach Aurélien Cologni ahead of their European Championship clashes with Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
England scored early with Tom Burgess scoring under the posts with a battering charge and four defenders hanging on his back after only two minutes, following good running in midfield by James Graham and Oliver Holmes that forced France backwards in defence after a penalty for offside by France gave England excellent field position. Connor kicked the conversion to give England a 6-0 lead.
France tried to make a quick response, but a careless pass by Fages saw England have a fresh set in France’s 20 metre area. Percival was held up with the line in sight and England battered the French line, but Lyne was held up on the fifth tackle and handed over possession to France.
England were presented with an opportunity after a late tackle by Baitieri on Myler, giving England excellent field position, but nothing came of it as Percival was bundled into touch by ferocious French defence.
France, however, were making error after error when they had the ball with Canet knocking on in the tackle and they were made to pay when Johnstone scored his first international debut as he got to a grubber kick by Percival ahead of Gigot to make it 10-0 after 13 minutes. Connor missed the conversion.
With the game threatening to get away from them, France made inroads into England territory after a knock on by Burgess gave them excellent field position, but the attack petered out after Fages high kick on the fifth tackle bounced out.
Tom Johnstone got his second try after Robin knocked a flying pass by Hodgson forward in a desperate attempt to stop the England attack, but left Johnston free on the left to go over unopposed for 14-0 to England after 18 minutes, with Connor kicking the conversion for 16-0.
It started to get a bit one-sided in attack, with Holmes breaking the line and racing away, although the support from Percival came a bit too late and France were able to stop this attack and survive in defence after Burgess knocked on under pressure when under the posts.
This gave France the impetus to attack and repeat sets of six took them to under the England posts, although indecision in attack halted their progress and Fages was held up with the line in sight as England continued to stay firm in attack.
After a silly penalty for an infringement when in attack, France were made to suffer as England roared forward and Johnstone caught a wonderful high bomb by Connor to score his hat trick try after 25 minutes for 20-0, with Connor adding the extras from the touchline for 22-0.
Jake Connor was looking very confident on his international debut, kicking accurate high kicks that were causing issues in the French defence. It was a pass by Connor that brought about England’s next try, with Richie Myler being put over after 31 minutes for another clinical England score for 26-0, although Connor did miss the kick to leave the score 26-0.
France were working hard, but being pushed backwards in defence as England made hard yards through Graham and Milner in midfield, and a repeat set of six for England after a charge down by Barthau gave England six more tackles saw them pass 30 points as Connor exploited gaps in the defence to put Luke Thompson over for a try on his international debut for 30-0 after 33 minutes, with Connor adding the conversion for 32-0 to England.
Jason Baitieri’s men had to find a response as the half drew near to the end and they were able to battle to near the English line after repeat penalties by England gave them excellent field position, with Fages held up over the line and a high kick to the corner just too high for Marcon.
It was a temporary reprieve, however, as England went all the way up the other end of the pitch and scored a final 1st half try as Elliott Whitehead flew threw some half-tackles to score after 40 minutes for 36-0, with Jake Connor leaving the half-time score 38-0 to England after kicking the conversion.
The second half started with simple sets from both sides, with France forcing England back to their 10-metre line off a Barthau kick and a Connor grubber kick forcing Miloudi to put it out for a goal-line drop out, although it led to a moment to forget for Whitehead as the resulting drop out bobbled through his legs and out for a French scrum, much to his consternation.
Both sides continued to batter each other in attack, with loose passes causing loss of possession. France nearly paid for it as Ader tried a quick pass, only for it to hit the ground and Lyne to retrieve for England. The resulting attack took England to five metres out, only for McGillvary to just miss out on a pass by Lyne.
France were doing more defending than England, but they were becoming more confident in the tackle and were forcing England to throw the ball around in the tackle, with each side trading solid sets of six.
England did get an excellent position to attack from after a knock on when playing the ball by Da Costa, but a wild pass from Connor saw the ball fly out of play and end the attack.
Connor made up for it though after he out-jumped Robin to go over unopposed under the posts after a clinical high kick from Myler to put the first points on the board in the second half for 42-0 after 59 minutes, with Percival converting for 44-0.
France, despite the increasing scoreline against them, rallied on the next set, forcing a Graham knock on and then finally putting points on the board as Fages sprinted through a gap in the England defence to score a well-received try for 44-4 after 63 minutes, with Barthau, adding the extras for 44-6.
This gave France the confidence to attack more and they put pressure on the England line again a few minutes later when a penalty for a high tackle gave Fages the position to launch a strong set of six, with England being forced to drop out under the posts again. However, the subsequent attack petered out when a pass from Ader to Robin was adjudged to be forward.
It was a much more even half, with both teams making good yardage in attack. Canet and Da Costa were making powerful runs that forced the line backwards, as were Graham and Tom Burgess for England. France even forced England into another goal-line drop out after a low grubber kick by Fages forced Jamie Shaul into touch under pressure from three French defenders.
It became much more a war of eattrition as the game drew nearer to the end, with some big tackles flying in and some errors starting to creep in as players began to tire.
England had one more opportunity to get points on the board in the final minutes as they got successive penalties for French indiscretions, with Jamie Shaul looking to have scored after exploiting a gap. However, it was ruled out after a judgement from the officials that Lyne had hindered Gigot’s attempts to make the tackle.
This proved the last chance for either side as the game drew to a close with the final score 44-6 to England.
England Head Coach Wayne Bennett praised the players making their debuts and acknowledged how the game had gone: “We got the early try and a lot of things went our way, but it was the type of game that we needed, so I’m happy with that.
“I’m also pleased we gave these players a chance to represent their country and play international Football, so it’s all part of the journey”
France coach Aurélien Cologni admitted that the first half for his team had been very disappointing: “I’m very pleased with the second half performance, but it’s difficult to talk about the first half. I was disappointed with our ball control and we gave the ball to a team with strong forwards who are very powerful, so there wasn’t that balance in attack and defence that I wanted from my team in the first half.
He added: “We were much better in the second half, as we found our discipline and improved our ball control significantly, working to the plan we had. We were close to winning the second half, so I’m at least happy with that”.
England will now go on to face New Zealand for the Baskerville Shield in a three-game test series, with games on 27th October at Hull, 3rd November at Liverpool and 11th November at Leeds.
France will go into the 2018 European Championships, a tournament that also doubles as 2021 World Cup Qualification, taking on Scotland and Wales in Carcassonne, with a trip to Ireland in between those two games