England flexed their muscles for the World Cup with a thoroughly professional performance to secure an 18-4 win over Ellery Hanley’s Combined Nations All Stars at Warrington.
After losing to the same opponents at the same venue 12 months ago, England produced a more ruthless and efficient display in front of a 9,393 crowd at the Halliwell Jones Stadium to deliver a victory in Shaun Wane’s third match in two years as head coach.
Wigan second rower John Bateman scored one try and made another in a man-of-the-match performance while half-back George Williams, woefully out of form with his club, justified the faith of his national coach with an accomplished display on his home ground, highlighted by a sparkling try.
Full-back Sam Tomkins was in fine form as he led his team to victory for the first time and there were also impressive returns to the England team from his Catalans team-mates Mike McMeeken and Michael McIlorum.
With the addition of Jonny Lomax and Morgan Knowles, who both missed the game through injury, and NRL-based players of the calibre of Elliott Whitehead and Tom Burgess to come into the reckoning, Wane has a useful squad to take into the World Cup.
The All Stars made the more impressive start, with Salford’s Australian half-back Brodie Croft going close to opening the scoring but, once England found their groove, there was only one likely outcome.
Huddersfield centre Jake Wardle, one of four players on debut, made a dream start, taking Tomkins’ pass close to the line to force his way over for the game’s first try on 10 minutes.
The All Stars lost Leeds prop Matt Prior with a chest injury four minutes later and they fell further behind when the excellent Bateman split their defence and got his former Wigan team-mate Williams haring for the line.
Tomkins kicked his second conversion to make it 12-0, which is how it stayed until half-time, and it did not take long for England to press home their obvious superiority, Bateman demonstrating exceptional strength to reach out of a three-man tackle to score their third try three minutes into the second half.
The introduction of hooker Kruise Leeming added spice to the All Stars attack in the second half but Wane’s men were on their mettle defensively, scrambling superbly to contain a clean break by Wakefield second rower Kelepi Tanginoa.
Wane would have loved a clean sheet but Ken Sio ruined that, picking up a pass by his bootlaces from All Stars skipper Shaun Kenny-Dowall to score a consolation try on 65 minutes while centre Rhyse Martin had a late score disallowed for a double movement.