Bennett pleased with England hit-out
Wayne Bennett's decision to fly half of the England squad over to Australia for the one-off Pacific Test fixture paid dividends both on and off the field after a 30-10 victory against Samoa at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.
NRL regulars Josh Hodgson and James Graham got over the line for Bennett's men but it was the English Super League players that stood tall with halves pairing Kevin Brown and Luke Gale creating four try-assists in the 20-point win.
While the Englishmen were clinical in a five tries to two display in front of an 18,271 strong crowd, it proved more valuable for the team off the paddock just as much as on it.
"We weren't going to get better watching the other nation's play," Bennett said after the match.
"It was an add-on from where we finished in the four nations and what we did in November so I was pleased with that.
"We didn't get the players in until Monday night so it's a big effort and 12 of the players flew in from the UK so we didn't have a whole lot of time to do anything but they picked up where they left off.
"From the team that I left in November last year to the side I saw here tonight… there is a lot more confidence in individuals within the team."
Bennett copped criticism from fans in the Northern Hemisphere when his final 17 was announced on Thursday.
St Helens centre Mark Percival missed a spot in the line-up as the premiership-winning coach opted for former Penrith Panther Zak Hardaker to start in the No.4 jersey, despite strong form in the fullback role at Castleford.
English fans will learn soon enough that behind every decision, Bennett always has a plan.
"I'm not worried about my critics, I would have left the game long ago if I started listening to them," he said.
"This week has been great for us, it's brought us together and will be a big help with the World Cup six months away.
"I was appreciative of what the clubs did to sacrifice [the players for the week] and we could take three from any club.
"It all worked good and they'll be back home for next week to play. Our staff did a great job with them."
England skipper Sean O'Loughlin admitted he has noticed a change in the side's development in the space of 12 months after playing under Bennett for the first time on Saturday.
"I wasn't involved last year [in the Four Nations] but felt the boys were one step ahead with the time they spent together," O'Loughlin said post-game.
"Coming into this week it felt like everyone was on the front foot with what went right so we went through the same process.
"I think it's been a great week… to come over here and come together as a group, we probably get more out of that than a game back at home.
"On the field we've had a tough physical battle and that's what everyone wanted out of this game."
While the clash marks their final official match before the Rugby League World Cup in October, there is no time to celebrate the result with all England-based players scheduled to fly home from Australia on Sunday.