"That first 20 minutes was below par of where we should be": Billy Slater. Photo: AFP Photo: AFP
CARDIFF: At least Australia won't meet New Zealand until a potential final clash after a lacklustre opening to their World Cup campaign.
Australia were unsettled in their 28-20 victory against England after a poor first 20 minutes. While the win was an obvious highlight, perhaps of greater consequence was that barring a catastrophic loss to either Ireland or Fiji, Australia won't play New Zealand until the final, should both sides progress that far.
The Kangaroos will need more from their props Matt Scott and James Tamou, who were out-muscled in the opening exchanges. Australian coach Tim Sheens may have been left ruing his decision against any warm-up games as the Kangaroos looked disjointed in the opening exchanges before scoring 22 unanswered points in a 17-minute period either side of half-time.
Australia opens World Cup with win over England
Greg Inglis of Australia passes to Johnathan Thurston to set up a try. Photo: Getty Images
Australia's playmakers Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston were among the destroyers, along with forwards Greg Bird and Andrew Fifita as they clawed back an eight-point deficit.
England dominated early, led by a solid platform from big men George Burgess, Sam Burgess and Christopher Hill overpowering Australia through the middle.
Australia fullback Billy Slater said his side need to improve.
“We are pretty clear of what our standards are and that first 20 minutes was below par of where we should be,” he said. “You don't always come out on top when you put yourself in that position.”
New Zealand Warriors recruit Sam Tomkins laid on the first points with a delicate cut-out pass hitting winger Ryan Hall from a back-line sweeping move for Hall score after seven minutes. A trademark bullocking charge from George Burgess should have had England's next points before he spilt the ball over the try line following the attention of three Australian defenders.
England continued to take advantage of loose Australian ruck defence before a mistimed banana kick from captain Kevin Sinfield bounced as Australia lacked urgency to allow Leroy Cudjoe to extend England's lead to 10 after 19 minutes.
A shortside bomb from Cooper Cronk produced Australia's first points as a leaping Greg Inglis snatched the ball from an isolated Tomkins' grasp before passing to Thurston to score Australia's first tournament points.
“It's important we improve on what we did,” Slater said. “A lot of the boys haven't played for five or six weeks, it was important to blow the cobwebs out.