Autumn International Series: England 44-6 France

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport at Craven Park
Powerful Watkins scores hat-trick

England swept aside France with an eight-try victory to lay down a marker for next week's Autumn International Series final between the two sides.

There was a hat-trick for Kallum Watkins, while Sam Tomkins broke the England try-scoring record with a double.

Tom Briscoe also crossed twice, with captain Kevin Sinfield scoring a try and kicking six goals. Kane Bentley's try, converted by Thomas Bosc, was France's only response.

France struggled to compete and will need to improve when the teams meet again in next Sunday's decider in Salford.

After last week's one-sided 80-12 win over Wales in Wrexham, England were hopeful that France would provide more of a test as they build up to next year's World Cup on home soil.

But it took the home side just seven minutes to open the scoring. They were given a penalty for a ball steal and played smartly from left to right for Leeds centre Watkins to go over, with Sinfield converting from the touchline.

France, who were chasing a first win over England since 1981, started to show a bit more urgency and forced a goal-line dropout but England's defence held firm as the visitors struggled to create any real chances.

There was a moment of worry for England coach Steve McNamara when second rower Gareth Ellis was put on report for a high shot on French full-back Cyril Stacul and the game was delayed for a time as he received treatment.

But it was not long before England were over again after a controversial ball steal by Richie Myler on France's Clement Soubeyras, the Warrington man showing great awareness to pass the ball out to Hull FC's Tom Briscoe who went in under the post to score in his fourth consecutive game against the French.

Briscoe's try gave England a lift in front of a crowd of 7,173 at Craven Park and on 24 minutes they broke downfield again through Cudjoe and, with three attackers against one defender, Watkins went in for his second try.

Fit-again Tomkins, who missed last week's win with a knee injury, equalled the England try-scoring record on 29 minutes with his 13th international try when he squeezed in between two French defenders to make it 20-0.

England were firmly in the ascendancy but both Cudjoe and Hock spurned great chances to extend their side's lead before the break.

Tomkins broke former St Helens and Wigan winger Alf Ellaby's England record - set in 1935 - with his second score two minutes into the second half in his 14th international. Six minutes later, Briscoe scored his second after some good work by man of the match Gareth Hock.

The error count continued to mount for France, who were poor in their execution and they suffered a further blow in a performance they will want to forget when the experienced Gregory Mounis was forced off with 20 minutes to go with an arm injury.

Sinfield then sidestepped through the tired French defence and reached over the line to score England's seventh try with 11 minutes left.

France got some late consolation when ex-Bradford Bull Olivier Elima, who is now back with the Catalan Dragons, sent Bentley over.

Watkins completed his hat-trick just on the hooter but coach McNamara will still be looking for further improvement in next week's final.

"We got a little bit scruffy," McNamara told BBC Sport. "Defensively we were outstanding, but offensively we played with a little lack of discipline and we'll fix that for next week.

"We were expecting a very tough game. All of the France team are Super League players and they are very commited.

"Kallum Watkins is an outstanding young man. This is only his first taste of international rugby league so he'll get better and better."

England: Tomkins, Hall, Watkins, Cudjoe, Briscoe, Sinfield, Myler, Mossop, McIlorum, Hill, Ellis, Hock, Jones-Buchanan. Replacements: Burrow, Morley, Ablett, Harrison.

France: Stacul, Cardace, Pala, Duport, Soubeyras, Bosc, Barthau, Elima, Bentley, Casty, Larroyer, Baitieri, Mounis. Replacements: Pellisier, Griffi, Bemba, Simon.