ST Helens ace James Roby scored during an impressive performance on his return to the England camp to help Steve McNamara’s men record an easy win over the Exiles.
McNamara will be delighted with a sparkling first-half showing that enabled them to build a 24-0 lead on their way to levelling the series at 2-2 but there were few positives after the break.
The loss of influential skipper Kevin Sinfield with a thumb injury at half-time clearly affected their fluency while a serious-looking injury to second rower Gareth Ellis added to the distractions.
So McNamara will be left with mixed emotions in England’s last competitive game before the World Cup, at least comforted by the knowledge that he will be able to bolster his squad by up to half a dozen players from Australia’s NRL.
Initially the Exiles resembled a side thrown together at four days’ notice, which is basically what Brian McClennan and Phil Veivers were presented with.
There was a scrappy opening in which the Exiles arguably looked the more dangerous team, with back-row duo Harrison Hansen and Trent Waterhouse finding gaps in the England defence.
But, with Zak Hardaker in particular standing firm, England soaked up the pressure and hit their opponents with four tries in 15 minutes.
Hardaker got the first, touching down Sam Tomkins’ grubber kick, and James Roby demonstrated exceptional pace for the second, sprinting 80 metres after Exiles captain Brett Hodgson had spilled the ball from Michael Dobson’s pass and Sinfield demonstrated quick thinking to pick up and get the hooker racing clear.
Just three games into his comeback from a three-month injury lay-off, Roby was brought off, with Sinfield taking over the dummy-half duties to enable McNamara to get Rangi Chase into the action.
Richie Myler, who was preferred as the starting scrum-half, kicked poorly but he combined superbly with Ellis to get centre Leroy Cudjoe romping over for England’s third try before Sinfield split the Exiles defence to get Tomkins over.
Sinfield converted all four tries to give his side a 24-0 half-time lead but did not re-appear for the start of the second half, giving McNamara the opportunity to examine a Myler-Chase half-back combination.
Tomkins led the team back out and he thought he had extended the lead when he weaved his way through the Exiles defence but video referee Phil Bentham disallowed the try for an obstruction.
McNamara’s men appeared to lose focus after that and, as the Exiles began to find their rhythm, they hit their hosts with two tries in six minutes.
Prop Mickey Paea bulldozed his way over from short range before the Exiles demonstrated their handling skills for Hodgson and Steve Menzies to work winger Joel Monaghan over at the corner.
Pat Richards converted one of the tries as England’s lead was cut to 24-10 and they were forced into some desperate defence to twice bring down stand-off Travis Burns short of the line.
The game was held up for Ellis to have treatment for a serious-looking lower-back injury to take another layer of gloss of England’s victory, although they had the final say when Cudjoe raced from halfway for his second try two minutes from the end.