A TRY on the final play of the game condemned England to a 16-12 defeat by Exiles in the inaugural International Origin match at Headingley Carnegie last night.
England were clinging to a 12-10 lead when the ‘visitors’ mounted a final desperate attack from inside their own half and man of the match Rangi Chase and Sia Soliola linked to supply George Carmont, who jinked through some tiring defence for a touchdown converted by Pat Richards.
Exiles deserved their win, though there was little to choose between the teams, who produced plenty of effort, but little end product.
The action couldn’t be described as exciting, until the last 10 minutes, though technically the standard was high. For the large part the teams cancelled each other out, with few clean-breaks of goal-line action.
England were well-organised and they defended strongly – which should be a given at this level – but they were one-dimensional in attack.
Both their tries came out of the blue and Exiles carried the greater attacking threat, particularly through their half-back combination of Castleford Tigers’ Chase and Wigan’s Thomas Leuluai.
Of the Leeds Rhinos on show, Kevin Sinfield’s kicking game was good, but Ryan Hall saw little ball and Jamie Peacock got only limited game time.
The promptings of Danny Buderus – who suffered a facial cut – were vital in the closing stages and Kylie Leuluai also finished strongly, particularly one tremendous late charge.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ veteran captain Glenn Morrison, originally 18th man, got a late call into the Exiles team when Matt King withdrew and he produced an eye-catching effort.
Exiles’ counter-attacking made then good value for their 10-6 interval lead and they would have been further in front but for some good defence by England.
England’s only clear opportunity of the opening period produced their first try. James Graham burst past Tony Puletua and Buderus and Richie Myler was in support to cross unopposed, Kevin Sinfield adding the extras.
That squared the scores on 22 minutes after Exiles had taken an early lead through Willie Manu’s try – off Thomas Leuluai’s run and pass – and a Richards’ conversion.
Exiles nosed in front on 28 minutes when Francis Meli touched down from Brett Hodgson’s cross kick, after Richards had been halted by a superb Tom Briscoe tackle.
The scoreline didn’t change until 11 minutes from time when Joel Tomkins intercepted Brett Hodgson’s pass and showed tremendous pace over almost the length of the field, with Sinfield’s goal edging England ahead.
The crowd of 14,174 was an excellent starting point to build on for the future, but there was little in the way of atmosphere.
The lack of away support obviously didn’t help, but there was no real animosity to the opposition and many on the terraces – those whose clubs had more players in Exiles colours than representing England – clearly had divided loyalties.
Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins – one of England’s better players – was booed on a couple of occasions. Referee Richard Silverwood kept the game flowing, awarding only eight penalties – five of them to England.
There were no obvious major injuries to any of the Leeds, Castleford or Wakefield players who took part in the game.
England: S Tomkins, Briscoe, Bridge, Shenton, Hall, Sinfield, Myler, Graham, Robinson, Peacock, Wilkin, Westwood, O’Loughlin. Subs (all used) McIlorum, Morley, Carvell, J Tomkins.
Exiles: Hodgson, Richards, Carmont, Soliola, Meli, Chase, T Leuluai, O’Meley, Buderus, Puletua, Anderson, Manu, Fitzgibbon. Subs (all used) Faiumu, K Leuluai, Morrison, Fa’alogo.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).