Updated: Monday, 6th April 2020 @ 9:57pm

Rugby League World Cup Blog: England right to take their foot off the gas in Ireland drubbing

Rugby League World Cup Blog: England right to take their foot off the gas in Ireland drubbing

By Matt Turner 

After racing into a 30-0 lead after just 24 minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking England’s second half performance against Ireland on Saturday was poor.

However, this is far from the case. Anyone who watched the game would knew that the first half was played in glorious Yorkshire sunshine, even if it was a little windy.

Conditions for the second half were almost the exact opposite of perfect, meaning the teams were being made to work hard for points.

With such a comfortable lead and with the tournament still very much in its infancy, what need was there for England to work hard?

Of course, there will be those who argue that England should have gone for the jugular and put 70-80 points on a poor Ireland side.

Obviously this would have done the points difference a lot of good, but surely scoring 42 points and conceding zero is enough of a statement to make?

Furthermore, England have much harder tests to come and everyone has to be fit and ready to go. 

The game against Fiji in Hull this coming Saturday is sure to be a bruising physical encounter so it’s vital that any bumps and scrapes are fully healed and the energy levels are high.

So to anyone who was critical of England’s second half performance was sub-standard, I’d counter that by saying it was well measured. The game was won and bigger challenges lie ahead.

Imagine if we’d have gone hell-for-leather in search of another 30 or 40 points and one of our key players got badly injured in the process?

Aside from a few knocks, England emerged from the challenge unscathed and can be extremely happy with their days work. 

To “nil” any side at international level is a significant achievement and some of the rugby played was excellent.

One criticism I had of England’s display against Australia was that they were a little too slow at the play-the-ball, meaning the opposition defence could organise.

On Saturday, James Roby used the ball much quicker at hooker, our general play was much swifter and we were extremely clinical when try-scoring opportunities came about.

Yes, the opposition was poor, but you can only beat what is put in front of you. Two encouraging performances so far, but I think we will have a much clearer idea of where we’re at after the Fiji game.

Another side to keep a clean-sheet over the weekend was New Zealand, who easily disposed of France 48-0. 

They may not have been at their best but they were still too good for France, even without star man Sonny Bill Williams.

Shaun Johnson showed why he is one of the world’s best half-backs with a virtuoso display, scoring two tries and kicking 16 points.

What will have been more pleasing for the Kiwis was the dogged nature of their defence. 

France certainly threw more at them than Ireland did at England but, like the Irish, they were prevented from scoring a single point.

The Australian juggernaut continued to march on in St Helens as they comfortably saw off Fiji.

They even had the luxury of resting the likes of Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk but they still had too much for the Fijians, with Greg Inglis reverting back to the full-back role he regularly plays for the South Sydney Rabbitohs to good effect.

Wales were again humbled in front of their home crowd as they crashed out of the tournament after losing 24-16 to the United States. 

The Tomahawks are gaining more and more fans with their no-fear style of rugby league, but the enquiry starts now for the Welsh.

The final game of the weekend was probably the best one I have watched in the tournament so far as Scotland and Italy played out a 30-30 draw.

At 14-0 and 26-18 to the good, Scotland had the game won twice, but as England found out to their disadvantage in a warm-up match, this Italian team just keeps going right to the end.

Much like the two sides themselves, Danny Brough and Josh Mantellato could not be separated in their kicking duel with five goals apiece.

Italy and the United States have certainly surprised many with their performances and their duel at the Salford City Stadium on Thursday should be an interesting battle.

Image courtesy of UkRugbyLeague via YouTube, with thanks.

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