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Bragging rights for Warrington Wolves' master over the pupil
TWO Warrington Wolves full backs were among the stand-out performers in the conclusion to the International Origin Series.
The master and the pupil went head-to-head, with highly experienced Exiles captain Brett Hodgson winning the bragging rights over Stefan Ratchford on his senior England debut.
Although Ratchford caught the eye with his creative running and cleaning up from kicks, Hodgson marked his return to action from a hamstring injury with two tries, two assists and four kicks in a 32-20 success at Huddersfield Giants’ Galpharm Stadium last night.
His final task was to lift the gleaming trophy for Super League’s cream of overseas talent after a drawn series, with Exiles keeping the silverware due to going into this year’s increased two-match event as holders.
Prop Garreth Carvell showed up well in his spells on the field in a beaten side, whereas Wolves clubmate Joel Monaghan could also celebrate victory with a try.
The individual moment of the night, though, came from Warrington and England centre Ryan Atkins.
The explosive former Wakefield star was starved of possession for much of the 80 minutes but made the most of his 22nd minute scoot from dummy half.
It was a move started by Ratchford, who, as he did all night, impressively cleared the danger from a Scott Dureau kick.
From the play-the-ball on his own 10-metre line, Atkins created a huge hole by bamboozling Steve Menzies with fancy footwork and then haring on an arc beyond the covering tackles that came flying in from Willie Manu and Hodgson to complete a stunning 90-metre try.
Unfortunately, England’s tendency to attack to the right meant the highly dangerous Atkins had few other chances to show his wares in attack.
He did have to spend a fair bit of time chasing back to defend after Exiles targeted breaking the line on his side of the field although mainly well away from his arm’s reach.
With Danny Brough adding the conversion to Atkins’ try, that effort levelled matters after Hodgson had scorched over in the third minute to give England’s left-sided defence a sign of things to come.
Thankfully Atkins and Ratchford ushered Menzies into touch to come to the rescue of Hull winger Tom Briscoe, who offered no challenge to Wolves’ Joel Monaghan in the air to a kick that he palmed back for another try opportunity.
Exiles exploited a lack of numbers supporting the left flank defenders, while it was lazy ruck work on the short side that led to Dureau’s touchdown putting Exiles in front again in the 30th minute.
Wigan’s Super League leading try scorer smartly stepped off his right foot to avoid Hodgson’s attempted challenge and cross to cut the gap to 12-10 in the 35th minute.
But the balance of play and more fluent style was with Exiles.
Ratchford blocked Dureau’s path to Exiles try number three with a covering tackle that ended with him also stealing possession but there was nothing he could do moments later.
Hodgson chimed into the line like he does so effectively for Wolves and delivered a pinpoint pass for Monaghan’s angled run to pay dividends.
St Helens threequarter Francis Meli was next to benefit from Hodgson’s accurate distribution of the ball, squeezing over in the corner for a 20-10 lead.
It looked all over when Hodgson caught out England skipper Jon Wilkin and Ratchford as he burrowed over from a close-range play-the-ball.
But Ratchford’s towering re-start kick flummoxed Dureau and in the next set Briscoe managed to hold off the challenge of Monaghan by the corner post to stay in the hunt at 26-14.
Salford half back, who continued with the form he showed in the hammering of Wolves on Friday, made the break for the killer second try from Meli in the 60th minute although Cudjoe completed the scoring with a consolation effort three minutes from time.
The game, which lacked in the intensity expected in international rugby league, was added to the busy domestic calendar to help Steve McNamara’s preparations for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
It seems clear from this series that England have a lot of work to do before Australia and New Zealand start feeling nervous.
England: Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Leroy Cudjoe, Ryan Atkins, Tom Briscoe; Matty Smith, Danny Brough; Eorl Crabtree, James Roby, Garreth Carvell, Carl Ablett, Jon Wilkin, Jamie Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Rob Burrow, Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Scott Taylor.
Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Daryl Millard, Joel Moon, Francis Meli; Daniel Holdsworth, Scott Dureau; Anthony Laffranchi, Heath L’Estrange, Epalahame Lauaki, Willie Manu, Steve Menzies, Sia Soliola. Subs: Lincoln Withers, Kylie Leuluai, Antonio Kaufusi, Constantine Mika.