Paul Anderson’s England Knights displayed the defensive qualities Shaun Wane will be looking for in his senior side at the Rugby League World Cup, as they dug deep to defeat France B at in Bordeaux.
Struggling for cohesion going forward and forced to soak up some heavy pressure in defence, the Knights did remarkably well to go in at half-time 12-0 to the good, thanks to tries from Huddersfield Giants duo Owen Trout and Olly Russell.
And in the second half they held off a spirited French fightback to claim a hard-earned but thoroughly deserved 18-6 victory.
England had to be at their very best defensively in the first 40, as half-backs Cesar Rougé (Catalans Dragons) and Thomas Lacans (Newcastle Thunder) forced four goal line drop-outs, Will Pryce and Jake Wardle responsible for mopping up operations. Villeneuve Leopards centre Gavin Marguerite almost squeezed in at the corner on the half hour, only to be denied by superb defence from opposite number Deon Cross.
It was the closest France came to scoring in a first half largely dominated by defence and it was England who did all the scoring at the other end of the field. On 14 minutes Danny Walker created the simplest of tries for Trout and with the half time hooter set to sound Russell took full advantage of a fumble by full-back Hakim Miloudi. Will Pryce converted both tries.
In between those scores both sets of packs tore into each other, Florian Vailhen, Ugu Tison, Tiaki Chan and Corentin le Cam offering a constant threat, and Matty English and Tyler Dupree fighting fire with fire to keep them at bay.
But Bordeaux’s Stade Robert Brettes is named after a famous French Resistance fighter and they did not buckle. On 64 minutes Limoux’s Justin Bouscayrol burrowed over from close range, then Ellis Longstaff and Wardle were forced to concede drop-outs five and six.
England though stood firm and will regroup next week before taking on Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday (8 October).