England push Kangaroos close in opener

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Sam Tomkins refused to take any satisfaction from an encouraging England performance in their 28-20 defeat by tournament favourites Australia in Saturday’s World Cup opener.

Humiliated by minnows Italy and dogged by off-field disciplinary issues, Steve McNamara’s men defied all expectations by pushing the Kangaroos all the way in an action-packed start to the 14th Rugby League World Cup in front of a 45,052 crowd at the Millennium Stadium.

England made a dream start, catching the Aussies cold by storming into a 10-0 lead thanks to tries from threequarters Ryan Hall and Leroy Cudjoe, as they threatened to re-produce their stunning win in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup.

It was too good to last but, even after the visitors struck back with four tries in a devastating 18-minute spell, McNamara’s men stayed in the contest to play a full part in a rousing start to the tournament.

England should still reach the quarter-finals but the defeat means that holders New Zealand will almost certainly stand in their way of earning a re-match with Australia in the November 30 final at Old Trafford.

It was a performance to instil belief that England could yet overcome the Kangaroos in the competition but Tomkins, who was a double winner with Wigan this year, was not consoled by the manner of defeat.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “We’ve a lot to improve on that’s the main thing to come out of it.

“You can’t be happy with a loss, can you? You’ve got to be disappointed with a loss.

“We probably gave them a bit too much ball. They’re a quality side, probably the best in the world, and they’re going to punish you.”

Second rower Brett Ferres, who was a late replacement for Hock, looks certain to keep his place for England’s next group match against Ireland on his home ground at Huddersfield next Saturday.