The England Academy fell to narrow 22-20 defeat at the hands of the Australian Institute of Sport in a bruising encounter at Leigh Sports Village today.
The Academy side, captained by Bradford Bulls Loose forward John Bateman, ran in four tries in a stellar performance but couldn’t find the killer touch late in the game to secure the win.
The Australian’s opened the scoring on the five minute mark after Jarrod Watson was on the end of a perfectly placed cross-field kick to dive over the whitewash. Scrumhalf Doug Hewitt added the extras to give the tourists an early six point lead.
England responded through some excellent play, with first Stevie Ward and then George Williams breaking through the defence, but England couldn’t capitalise on either opportunity.
James Duckworth then levelled the scores when he caught an arrowed kick from Williams on the last tackle to make it 6-4 and England went into the halftime interval ahead by 8-6 after centre Mark Percival snaked his way into the corner, eluding the defence moments before the whistle.
The second half began poorly for England when Alexi Falepaini was put through to score under the posts after Hewitt had carved open the defence to put the tourists back in front.
England looked to have responded almost immediately when captain Bateman went in under the posts to the roaring approval of the 1,054 crowd in attendance only to see his try ruled out for a forward pass.
England were made to pay when AIS captain Rhett Webster slid in down the left hand touchline after some inventive play to keep the ball alive saw the Australians go from one side of the pitch to the other.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Bateman collected the ball 30 meters out, shrugged off the first tackler to create an opening and the big forward then showed a blistering turn of pace to beat the cover defence and dive in on the left hand touch line. Williams slotted the extras to bring the scores to 16-14.
In an thrilling final few minutes, Ado Waianga collected a high kick to seemingly secure the win only for England’s Greg Wilde to hit back with an instantaneous response, but it proved to be the last throw of the dice for England as the game finished 22-20.
“We’re obviously disappointed to get beat but I was very pleased with the performance that the lads put in today and there are lots of positives for us to take from the game,” said England Academy coach Dave Elliott.
“The lads are all distraught but this is the start of a journey for them and we’ve emphasised the need to give these players access to International competition. The players have had that and we’ve got a platform to work on and build on.
“It was a great effort from the boys. There were some outstanding individual performances in our side but we made a few errors and collectively at times we just couldn’t get over the line and you pay for that at this level.
“In the end their experience told and they held on for the win but we know where we went wrong and what we could have done better so now we’ll go away and work on that and look to improve going forward.”
It was the second win in a week for the Australian’s following their 36-0 victory over Wales mid-week and they travel to York next for a clash against the Community Lions at Heworth ARLFC on Wednesday, December 7
Australian Institute of Sport:
Tries: Jarrad Watson, Aleki Falepaini, Rhett Webster, Addo Waianga
Goals: Doug Hewitt 3
Tries: James Duckworth, Mark Percival, John Bateman, Greg Wilde
Goals: George Williams 2