England 46 Papua New Guinea 6: Tommy Makinson scores 5 as hosts head for RLWC2021 semis

England were expected to progress into the semi-finals of the World Cup by beating Papua New Guinea, but nobody could have predicted they would do it in such style.
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The first half an hour was exceptional. PNG centre Justin Olam knocked on in the opening moments and the next time the Kumuls had a play-the-ball, exactly 30 minutes had elapsed and they trailed 38-0.

It was incredible stuff from coach Shaun Wane’s men who ran in seven tries during a spell of utter dominance.

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In front of a World Cup quarter-final record crowd of 23,179 at Wigan, pivots Sam Tomkins, Jack Welsby and George Williams were unplayable, working off the back of towering efforts in the middle from props Tom Burgess and Chris Hill.

Dom Young celebrates his first half try with Jack Welsby and Kallum Watkins. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Dom Young celebrates his first half try with Jack Welsby and Kallum Watkins. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Dom Young celebrates his first half try with Jack Welsby and Kallum Watkins. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

On the end of that, England’s three-quarters were ruthless, Tommy Makinson scoring a hat-trick and Dom Young and Kallum Watkins also touching down.

Makinson added two more touchdowns in the second half and also landed five goals for a personal points tally of 30 in a man of the match performance.

In the opening half an hour England were error-free and inventive and everything they tried came off. It was as good - and probably better - than anything any of their rivals have produced over the opening four rounds of the tournament and England weren’t up against hopeless opposition.

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A talented PNG side went into the game in decent form and with the belief they could cause an upset, but they couldn’t cope with England’s excellence. However, conditions deteriorated after that, the game got scrappy and England lost their momentum.

The final 50 minutes produced only two more England tries as PNG, to their credit, dug in, avoided the sort of cricket score which seemed inevitable earlier on and managed to get on the scoresheet themselves.

England’s easing off was understandable, but it will take an 80-minute performance to get past either Tonga or Samoa at Arsenal on Saturday and then beat the Aussies or Kiwis in the final seven days later.

It’s hard, though, to be critical after such a comprehensive victory and whatever happens over the next two weekends, England’s opening 30 minutes in the quarter-final will live long in the memory.

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They had already scored two tries, to go 10-0 ahead, when Rodrick Tai fielded a kick and was barged into touch by the massed England defence. A goalline drop out in the resulting set led to the hosts’ third try and they added four more in succession.

The last of those was bizarre. Alex Johnston spilled Williams’ kick behind PNG’s line,under pressure from Welsby and Makinson grounded the loose ball.

Referee Liam Moore indicated a 20-metre tap, but England challenged and video official; Adam Gee awarded the try.

Earlier, a weaving run by Herbie Farnworth, who was tackled on the line, paved the way for Burgess to crash over on the next play for the opener; then Tomkins slid a low kick through the defence and Makinson made a fine pick up to slide over.

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Young grabbed his ninth try of the tournament from Watkins’ pass after Williams’ kick was tapped back by Tomkins and John Bateman moved the ball wide.

Makinson picked Tai’s pocket to roll over the line from Williams’ kick; Bateman and Tomkins split the defence enabling Watkins to put Williams in and then the former Leeds Rhinos centre crossed off Young’s pass.

After all that, there was no score for the next 30 minutes, until the Kumuls were, harshly, penalised in possession near their line and Makinson crossed for his fourth try, from Farnworth’s pass after a neat offload by Morgan Knowles.

PNG got a consolation 10 minutes from time when Jimmy Ngutlik, the left-winger who has had an impressive tournament, touched down from Johnston’s kick and Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin landed a touchline goal.

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It seemed England might be outscored in the second half, but Makinson went nap from Welsby’s pass to complete the scoring four minutes from time.

This was England’s fourth game in as many World Cup ties and they have been impressive in all of them.

The competition will go up another level from next weekend, but the home nation could not have done much more and, with confidence and team spirit clearly on a high, they might be on the verge of something special.

England: Tomkins, Young, Watkins, Farnworth, Makinson, Welsby, Williams, Burgess, McIlorum, Hill, Whitehead, Bateman, Radley. Subs Knowles, Lees, Cooper, McMeeken.

Papua New Guinea: Johnston, Tai, MacDonald, Olam, Ngutlik, Laybutt, Lam, Albert, Ipape, Namo, Putt, Martin, Alick. Subs Boas, Russell, Yei, Simbiken.

Referee: Liam Moore (England).

Attendance: 23,179.