While New Zealand warmed up for the Baskerville shield with a good hit out against Leeds Rhinos on Friday night, Steve McNamara’s England would be disappointed with the standard of opposition they faced at Leigh 24 hours later.
The second string French team were never going to be a match for a Super League side, never mind an international team preparing for a test series.
As the saying goes, you can only beat what is put in front of you – and to be fair to England they did just that, helping themselves to 15 tries in what was a pointless exercise.
Well, nearly pointless. I got to try out my new parka.
England’s first arrived on two minutes; France failed to deal with a high bomb and Latchford Albion product Kallum Watkins grounded the loose ball.
The score board ticked over at regular intervals from that point on.
Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson scooted from dummy half to crash over before John Bateman stood up most of the France right side to step his way to the line.
Gareth Widdop converted all three.
France did get their act together, well sort of.
An Eric Cantonta kick ricocheted into the path of Gerard Depardieu and a looping pass found that woman that said things only once in the corner.
Asterix failed from the touchline.
Like most teams that Richard Agar is involved in, France were unorganised, devoid of ideas in attack and clueless in defence.
Despite missing a host of Catalan players, there really was no excuse for what France turned out.
England decided to try a short kick-off and it worked.
With the regained possession, neat work by Widdop and James Graham saw the ball spread to Liam Farrell who strolled over.
22-4 after 14 minutes, time for a breather.
Our notes read “shite this” as the next 20 minutes passed without anything happening at all.
England knew they’d won it and were going through the motions and France couldn’t keep hold of the ball.
With four minutes left, Bateman put Ryan Hall away down the left wing to score in the corner and then the Wigan centre/second row added another on the hooter to take it to 30-4 at the break.
England must have had a bollocking at half time.
If the first half was a procession, the second was like a Macey’s day parade – acrobats, dancing elephants, the lot.
It was relentless.
Inside two minutes, Tom Burgess had taken about six Frenchmen across the line and Brett Ferres and strolled up the middle for his first of three.
The best of the afternoon came next.
A break from George Williams, his offload found Watkins and his in turn Joe Burgess, James Roby was supporting on the inside and he reached out to score.
The blistering start to the second half continued.
Williams grabbed a ‘dayboo’ try and Roby doubled his tally from dummy half.
Ferres and Hall made it seven tries in 18 minutes, before there was brief respite for Les Chanticleers as it took a whole six minutes for Joe Burgess to add England’s 14th.
Brett Ferres wondered on to a Widdop grubber to complete his hat-trick and the scoring in the 79th minute.
We’re not really sure what this proves to be honest.
It certainly doesn’t point to how England will do against New Zealand. France had one eye on the European Championship, but this doesn’t do any favours to the kids from their local leagues.
It does show that the international game is desperate for some decent northern hemisphere opposition for England, but that’s a whole other debate.
England: Hardaker (Leeds); J. Burgess (Wigan); Bateman (Wigan); Watkins (Leeds); Hall (Leeds); Williams (Wigan); Widdop (St George – Illawarra); Hill (Warrington); Hodgson (Canberra); Graham (Canterbury); Farrell (Wigan); Whitehead (Catalan); O’Loughlin (Wigan).
Subs: Roby (St Helens); Cooper (St George – Illawarra); T Burgess (South Sydney)’ Ferres (Huddersfield)
France: Escare (Catalan); Sigismeau (St Esteve); Baile (Bradford); Jullien (Warrington); Arnaud (SO Avignon); Robin (St Esteve); Marginet (St Esteve); Bousquet (Catalan); Boudebza (Hull KR); Maria (Catalan); Larroyer (Hull KR); Perez (St Esteve); Simon (Wakefield).
Subs: Kriouache (Toulouse); Springer (Castleford); Boyer (Toulouse); Goudemand (SO Avignan).