Sun, Oct 26, 2008 - Page 20 News List

England kick off the World Cup with an unconvincing victory

AP , TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA

Leeds winger Lee Smith scored three tries on his test debut yesterday as England opened the Rugby League World Cup with a 33-22 win over Papua New Guinea.

England trailed 16-12 at halftime, but came back with a strong second half to beat the Pacific Island team in the first match of the month-long, 10-team tournament.

France play Scotland in Canberra and defending champions Australia take on New Zealand in Sydney today.

HAT-TRICK

Smith scored in the 29th minute and the 51st minute to help England draw level. He scored his third try in the 73rd minute.

Fellow winger Ade Gardner scored twice, while center Martin Gleeson was England’s other try scorer.

Papua New Guinea’s Rod Griffin leveled the match at 6-6 in the 20th minute, before late first-half tries to Jason Chan and George Keppa in the final seconds of the half gave the underdogs a surprising four-point lead at halftime.

Hooker Paul Aiton scored a consolation try for Papua New Guinea in the 75th minute.

WORK TO DO

Lee said England have room for improvement.

“It was personally satisfying, but the team, we’ve got a bit to work on,” Lee told Britain’s Sky Sports. “They came out tough, but in the last 20 minutes we did all right.”

England coach Tony Smith said the close match would help his side.

“It will probably do us a world of good rather than a soft game, though we knew it wouldn’t be a soft game,” he said. “We put a bit of pressure on ourselves, not having enough composure in the first half. There are some lessons learned.”

CRITICISM

Papua New Guinea coach Adrian Lam criticized several refereeing decisions, including a disallowed try for a forward pass while his side were leading 16-12.

“That was devastating. It would have put us 10 points ahead if we had got the conversion as well,” he said. “That was a real hurt, but we hung in there. A couple more decisions going our way and it’s game on.”

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