England all but guaranteed themselves a quarter-final berth at the Rugby League World Cup with a 42-18 victory over France in Bolton on Saturday.
Dom Young and Ryan Hall both scored two tries as England built on their unexpected opening 60-6 Group A thrashing of Samoa, man-of-the-match George Williams again bossing the game from halfback.
Earlier in the day Fiji, who went down 42-8 to champions Australia in their Group B opener, crushed Italy 60-4. The Kangaroos hammered Scotland 84-0 on Friday to guarantee a spot in the last eight.
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England coach Shaun Wane said his side, with one remaining group game against Greece to come, needed more consistency.
“We have to do better and some of the things weren’t good enough,” Wane told BBC.
“It’s a win, it’s a Test match, but without a shadow of a doubt we will improve on that.”
Hall crossed for England’s first try after five minutes, a Williams crosskick tapped back and Chris Hill providing the offload that opened up space for the veteran winger.
Hall made it two within 12 minutes as England spurned a penalty kick and spread the French defence too thin.
A third try came out of nothing, Victor Radley simply sidestepping France skipper Benjamin Garcia in midfield and finding Luke Thompson in support on his inside for an easy run in.
Debutant Marc Sneyd kicked the three conversions, with France yet to attack in England’s 20-metre area after 25 minutes at the University of Bolton Stadium.
The French were given hope, however, when Arthur Mourgue was first to pounce on his own grubber after a deflection off Radley over England’s tryline.
Eloi Pelissier scored his team’s second just minutes later, muscling over from dummy-half, Mourgue converting both to bring France to within six points.
Elliot Whitehead gave England some breathing space early in the second-half after John Bateman broke clear and offloaded.
Radley then crossed after a Williams dink through, Sneyd converting to suddenly leave England 30-12 ahead.
Young was the next beneficiary as the ball was worked through several pairs of English hands and he marked his double shortly after thanks to an interception and run-in from 90 metres.
Arthur Romano pulled one back for the French after Tony Gigot did well to battle through two would-be tacklers.
France will now likely face a straight shootout with Samoa for the other quarter-final spot from Group A, barring an upset Greece win over the Samoans on Sunday.
Fiji made short work of the Italians, Viliame Kikau, Penioni Tagituimua and Maika Sivo each running in two tries apiece at Kingston Park in Newcastle.
Kevin Naiqama, Apisai Koroisau, Ben Nakubuwai and Taniela Sadrugu also crossed for the three-time semi-finalists while Italy’s consolation score came via winger Jake Maizen.
The result leaves the two sides level on two points in Group B, but Fiji will fancy their chances of advancing to the knockout stages with victory over winless Scotland in their final group match next Saturday.
New Zealand take on Jamaica in the late game.
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